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Filed under Sports

Banner year for Blugold goalie

Collecting hockey cards from his father’s sports memorabilia store was where senior Brandon Stephenson first found his love for hockey. He said he was specifically drawn to the goalie position because of the players’ various face mask designs.

Luckily for UW-Eau Claire, he decided to pursue the sport further. He said his father signed him up for organized hockey shortly after he expressed interest as a child. He said the competition only fueled his newfound love for the position.

“I wanted to be a goalie, which most kids don’t want to be,” Stephenson said. “Most kids are forced into it but it was something that I wanted to do from a really young age.”

Once he reached his sophomore year at Saline High School, he joined the school team. Of the three years he started there, Stephenson received various all-conference, all-area and all-state honors.

He also helped lead the team to a second place finish in the state tournament his senior year.

Now in his final season with Eau Claire, he has more to add to the list. The goalie broke two separate school records this past weekend. In last Friday’s game against UW-Stout, Stephenson claimed his 40th career victory, a first for any Blugold goalie.

He then earned his 16th win of the season the very next day against UW-River Falls, a school single-season record.

“It was a good weekend,” Stephenson said. “It was nice, it was definitely something after last year I knew was in reach. It was one of my goals to get it. But I’m more happy about how our team is playing and how our season is going. Breaking a record is just icing on top.”

Head Coach Matt Leon said his goalie’s success comes as no surprise to him.

He said Stephenson’s record performances are due to consistency, a good work ethic and a sense of reliability.

“We told him that there wasn’t going to be much opportunity as a freshman but after that, the sky was the limit,” Leon said. “So I think he took that as an opportunity and the rest is history. He is the backbone of our team.”

Along with the two broken records, the Blugolds landed a piece of their first Northern Collegiate Hockey Association title in school history.

With that said, they still have two more regular season games to play this weekend. Senior defenseman Drew Darwitz said having Stephenson on the team is definitely going to help.

“It’s crucial,” Darwitz said. “He’s the glue of our team. If he’s playing well, we are all going to play well  and vice versa, if we are playing well then he’s going to play well. That’s how it was all year and that’s how it’s going to continue to be.”

Stephenson and the Blugolds will be playing again this coming weekend. They play St. Scholastica (Minn.) Friday at home and then at UW-Superior on Saturday.

Eau Claire needs to win one of these two games to take sole ownership of the NCHA title.

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