Strong play can’t net a win in Hobbs

David Taintor

Good news – UW-Eau Claire outshot UW-River Falls 30-24. They also didn’t allow any powerplay goals.

Bad news – River Falls’ goalie Cassi Campbell was on fire.

She collected 29 saves and allowed just one Blugold goal as the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association leaders defeated Eau Claire 3-1 at Hobbs Ice Arena in the final home game of the season.

“She was a good goalie and she played very well,” coach Mike Collins said. “Some nights she’s going to stop four or five that she shouldn’t and that makes a difference. We really ran into a hot goalie tonight.”

It’s not that the Blugolds didn’t have opportunities. Many of the shots deflected by Campbell resulted in rebounds that were playable by Eau Claire.

It just wasn’t in the cards.

“There’s no question that it’s frustrating when you put that many pucks on net and create a lot of opportunities,” Collins added. “We did everything but put the puck in the net.”

River Falls struck first as Brittany Erickson put the puck high glove side over Eau Claire’s freshman goalie Morgan Pieper.

The Blugolds struck back just four minutes later when sophomore Kristen Faber took a rebound and slammed it home between the stacked pads of Campbell. It was Faber’s 13th goal of the season, adding to her team-leading 25 points.

Pieper would keep the game close, beating the Falcons’ Emma Nordness with the left pad on a breakaway to end the period.

One minute into the second period, Ashley Berner flipped a rebound over the pads of Pieper to give River Falls a 2-1 advantage.

As the third period began, the Blugolds showed energy, as well as a presence that had been absent in the first two periods. A win against the 8th-ranked Falcons would provide a much needed boost into the playoffs.

Unfortunately for Eau Claire, Campbell enhanced her presence as well.

She made 11 saves in the period, keeping the Blugolds guessing with every shot.

In the final minute, Eau Claire had one last opportunity as they pulled Pieper for the extra attacker.

Once again, Campbell would keep the puck out of the net and River Falls recovered a rebound and scored on the Blugolds’ empty net.

Despite the loss, Eau Claire still has its eyes set high on a playoff run.

“If that’s the best in the league, I feel very good about our opportunities next week,” Collins said. “If we play with the heart and the passion and as well as we did tonight, we stand as good a chance as anyone.”

The Blugolds will open the NCHA quarterfinals against Lake Forest, Ill., next Friday in River Falls.