New season brings great expectations

The UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey team ended last season with a tough loss in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. The Blugolds lost to Lake Forest College (Ill.) in double overtime by a score of 1-0.

The Blugolds finished the regular season with an overall record of 12-14 and a conference record of 9-10.

Last year, Eau Claire was extremely young with no seniors on the roster and only two juniors. Although this year they have two seniors and two juniors on the roster, they still remain a young team. This year’s team features 11 freshmen and eight sophomores that will look to contribute.

Team leadership will begin with senior captains Margaret Campbell and Lauren Havard. But everyone is going to be expected to contribute this year, including the freshmen.

Even though the team is young, expectations for them are still high.

“My expectations are to hopefully equal last year’s wins and losses and improve by five or six games,” head coach Mike Collins said. “I would be disappointed if we didn’t finish in the top four of our conference and I’d be disappointed if we didn’t win a playoff game.”

The expectations appear to be right on par, as the Blugolds are predicted to finish fourth in the NCHA in the preseason rankings.

Without losing a single player to graduation, the Blugolds should bring back plenty of experience to help contribute early on while the younger players get accustomed to the team.

In the net, Eau Claire returns only one goaltender. Sophomore Danika Porter appeared in 15 games last year and started 14 of them. She was also in the net for the 1-0 playoff loss in which she recorded 29 saves. Joining her will be two freshmen in Morgan Pieper and Lea Jondal.

Right now, Collins said he does not know who will be in the net to open the season but that all three will contribute to the team throughout the season.

Junior Michelle Stohr returns to anchor the defense. Stohr was a first-team all- NCHA performer last year. Collins also expects sophomore Kelli Johnson to step in and play solid defense this season.

Offensively, sophomore Kristin Faber returns as the leading scorer. She finished last year with 22 points (13 goals and nine assists). Campbell was the second leading scorer followed closely by sophomore Christine Dickinson. Collins also expects big contributions from junior Beth Dittrich and Havard.

The Blugolds are ready to start the season and prove to the other teams in the conference they are not a team to be taken lightly.

“We’re really excited and we’re really ready to prove to people how talented we are and how much we can achieve,” Campbell said.

The Blugolds will hit the ice this weekend as they open the season with two home games. Friday they will take on Bethel University (Minn.) at 8 p.m. and Saturday they will face-off against St. Mary’s (Minn.) at 7 p.m. Both games will be at Hobbs Ice Arena.