Blugolds suffer first shutout in Superior

The UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey team has overcome injuries and upsets all season long.

However, one thing still stands in the way of a successful season.

The penalty kill.

The Blugolds lost to Northern Collegiate Hockey Association rival UW-Superior 4-1 on Friday, surrendering three power-play goals to the Yellowjackets at Wessman Arena in Superior.

That feeling was all too familiar as they fell again to Superior 3-0 on Saturday. Eau Claire allowed just one power-play goal this time around.

It was the first time all season the Blugolds have been shut out. It was also the 16th game Eau Claire has allowed a power-play goal.

In fact, 23 of the 54 goals the Blugolds have allowed this season have been power-play goals.

With only UW-River Falls left in the crosshairs, Eau Claire has to figure out how to stay out of the penalty box, and fast.

“When you play good teams and they’re always on the power play, it’s hard to compete,” coach Mike Collins said. “Superior has a skilled team, and if you give them an opportunity, it’s going to hurt you.”

The pair of losses moved Eau Claire to 12-8-3 (7-7-1 NCHA) on the season with just two regular-season games to go.

The Blugolds already clinched a playoff spot earlier this season and are unable to win the conference, so these last home games will serve as momentum builders and perhaps statement games if Eau Claire manages to upset first-place UW-River Falls.

“I hope we get out of this slump,” Collins said. “We were beating good teams earlier, and now we’re struggling.”

Eau Claire was 11-4-3 in the first 18 games of the season but has been just 1-4 since returning from winter break.

In the past five games, the Blugolds were outscored 13-7, compared to the first 18 games, where they outscored opponents 59-41.

Freshman netminder Morgan Pieper has been a constant for Eau Claire, collecting 57 saves in the two games against Superior.

That constant is considered a relief, as the Blugolds have been faced with several injuries this season. Overcoming lost players and stepping up is something coach Collins expects to see these next two games.

“We’re banged up here and there and the complexion of the line-up changes, but the base of the team is the same,” Collins said. “If we’re going to make a run in the playoffs, we have to play well against good teams.”

The Eau Claire women will play their final two games of the season this Friday and Saturday at Hobbs Ice Arena against the UW-River Falls Falcons. Both games will start at 7 p.m.