The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Hometown hockey

For men’s hockey coach Matt Loen, the game of hockey is more than just a sport.

“I think hockey is religion, so to speak, for me.”

Loen said his involvement with hockey began as a child and he also had the opportunity to continue to play in college. Actually, Loen played hockey all four years of his college career and is a former Blugold. In his final year playing for the university, he was a member of the All-American team. Loen is one of four Blugolds in school history to receive that award.

After finishing his college career, Loen moved on to play center in the minor leagues for eight years. Some of the teams he played for include the Milwaukee Admirals, the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks and the Madison Monsters, among others, he said.

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Loen said he loved the lifestyle as a player in the minor leagues due to the amount of traveling, playing games and doing something he loved for a profession.

During his time as a player in the minor leagues, Loen said, he and his family returned to Eau Claire during the off season and bought a home.

“We liked the city,” he said, adding that the location was also near extended family. “The quality of life in Eau Claire is superb.”

As for his current job, Loen has been coaching full-time for the past three years and was an assistant coach here at Eau Claire for two years.

Loen became the interim head coach last year and was named head coach in a press conference one week ago.

This past season, Loen led the team to a 11-16-1 overall record, good enough to move Loen into third place on the all-time win percentage list among Blugold coaches. In the NCHA, the team’s record was 6-7-1 and in the WIAC, it was 3-5-0. Under the direction of Loen as interim head coach, the team defeated UW-Superior in the quarter finals of the NCHA playoffs. These wins advanced the Blugolds to its first semifinal in school history. The program had not won a playoff game since 1995.

Loen coached part-time at Eau Claire Memorial High School after his return to Eau Claire from the minors. His passion for the game led to his coaching career, he said.

“It was something I wanted to get into all my life,” he said.

Loen is the ninth head coach in UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey history.

Loen said coaching has helped him increase his organizational skills, taught him the importance of academics as well as being very selective about recruitment among other things.

“(It’s) taught me to put the best team on the ice every time,” he said.

Sophomore goalie Tyler Brigl, who has played for Loen for two years, said Loen is a fun guy, very competitive and clearly loves the game.

“We’re pretty lucky to have him,” he said. “He motivates you in the correct way.”

Brigl said Loen brings a lot to the team, such as leadership and attitude. He said Loen directs the players in the right direction, and he’s definitely the ringleader.

“I love his coaching style,” he said. “He lets his players do what’s best (for them). (He) doesn’t try to change them.”

Some of Loen’s goals for the team next year include making it to the national tournament. He would also like the team to work hard, but would like the Blugolds to play for someone other

than him.

“(They should) play for each other, play for the guy sitting next to him,” he said.

Loen said this is always what he wanted and that it is a huge part of his life.

“Now I get to make a living with hockey.”

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