Coach advises men’s team to not look back, focus on playoffs

Renee Rosenow

Men’s Hockey

The UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team had a start to remember this season. The team won its first six games of the season and climbed their way up to No. 9 in the nation.

But after the hot start, the Blugolds lost four of their next five games and have dropped down to an honorable mention.

Head coach Matt Loen said he is concerned with the recent struggles, but expects the team to come out of its slump. His main concern for the season is not how they play at the beginning of the year, but how they play at the end of the year.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Loen said. “We just gotta prepare ourselves for the end.”

Eau Claire has struggled many years in the past to finish the season strong, Loen said. That is something he is going to challenge his team to do this year, finish the season strong when it matters the most – in the playoffs.

The Blugolds have two non-conference games this weekend. Friday at 7 p.m. in Hobbs Ice Arena against Augsburg (Minn.) and Saturday the team will travel to Blaine, Minn., to play Bethel (Minn.).

After that, they will have off until the new year rolls around when they take the ice Jan. 2 for a home non-conference weekend series versus St. Olaf (Minn.) and Crookston (Minn.)

Later on, they will be on the road for two more non-conference games.

They will finish out the season playing all conference opponents. That is another reason Loen said he wants to stress playing well at the end of the season.

“What’s happened in the past is over, we can’t do anything about it,” Loen said. “We just need to move on and focus on what we’re out to accomplish and we’re out to accomplish winning within the playoffs.”

Women’s Hockey

Coming into this season, the Eau Claire women’s hockey team did not know exactly what to expect. The team was very young with only two seniors and two juniors on the roster.

The questions they had were addressed with a respectable 6-2-2 overall record. Many of the underclassmen have stepped up and helped contribute to the teams’ success.

“With a young team you grow with every game,” head coach Mike Collins said. “We’re definitely putting ourselves in a position to win games, so that’s a good thing.”

The team has gained a lot of experience this year, especially in close games. The Blugolds have played in six overtime games already and have a respectable 2-2-2 record in those games.

The Blugolds have one game on Saturday before the break. It will be the teams’ toughest game yet, Collins said. They take on UW-River Falls, the No. 1 team in the conference and the No. 6 team in the nation.

They will not be back in action until Jan. 3. The Blugolds have a lot of hockey to play in the second half, and most of it will come against conference opponents.

“Playing well the second half is what then makes the difference getting into a playoff position and where your success will go from there,” Collins said.

He said the team sets goals before the season and so far they are on pace with those goals.

Now that the players have experience, the team expects to keep on track with those goals in the second half.

“It’ll definitely be tough with Superior, Stevens Point and a couple more against River Falls,” Collins said. “It’ll be interesting to see how we compete the second half.”