Starting the season on a defensive effort
Coming into the season as the reigning NCAA Division III national champions, the UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team is getting all set and ready to defend its title.
For the past two weeks, the team has been practicing at Hobbs Ice Center and defenseman David Donnellan said the team is happy to be back.
“I think we’re just sticking to the basics right now, getting our feet ready to go for the season and gearing up for that first game,” he said.
Having the national championship under their belts, Donnellan said he would love to see another championship for the Blugolds.
“Obviously, we have higher expectations for ourselves now that we won the national championship last year,” Donnellan said. “And we’re just looking to get back to that point this year. Obviously, that’s the goal for every team. It’s a challenge, we know all the hard work that it takes to get there and we’re looking to do that this year, as well.”
After losing 11 players from last year’s banner season, the team welcomes nine freshmen and two transfers to their roster. Forward Jared Williams said it’s a change from last year’s team, which was packed full of seniors.
“I’m kind of excited to see what they bring to the table when we get into game situations and how they contribute, because I know they can,” Williams said.
Williams said the team is gelling well together so far, and head coach Matt Loen has been shuffling the lines around to figure out who works well together.
For their first game of the season, the Blugolds will be facing St. Olaf (Minn.) on Nov. 8 at Hobbs Ice Center, and Donnellan said he’s looking forward to getting back on the ice and building chemistry with the new Blugolds.
“I’m just looking forward to playing with these guys and getting the season started,” Donnellan said. “It’s one thing to look at a piece of paper and say ‘yeah, we have potential to be good,’ but it’s another thing to actually prove it. We’re a solid team and we’re looking to get back to the national tournament again.”
Loen said facing St. Olaf will be a great start to the season.
“They’re a good team, they’re well coached and they work hard,” Loen said. “We tied them last year, so hopefully we’ll try to get some revenge.”
Loen said he’s expecting most of their opponents this season will go into their games wanting to take down the defending national champions.
Williams said that’s not something he wants the team to be focused on.
“We just can’t really think about that last season,” Williams said. “It’s a new season. It’s time to start building from what we’ve got this year and try to do it again and not really think about last year.”
Williams said there is some added pressure coming back from a championship, but that’s not something the team should let affect them.
“It’s not like we’re expected to win the national championship after the first game,” Williams said. “So I think after a little while we can see how we’re doing and I think if we come out with a good start and we make it to the Thanksgiving break doing well, anything can happen.”
Junior forward Ross Andersen said the Blugolds are poised to show last season’s magic wasn’t a fluke .
“Obviously after last year, we’re just ready to show that we weren’t just a one year team,” Anderson said. “We want to kind of start something where we’re a team people really have to focus on against every year.”