Hockey endures losses over weekend

Story by Ashley Hofer

The weekend was rough for the Blugold men’s hockey team as it dropped both games against National Collegiate Hockey Association rivals UW-Stevens Point and St. Norbert College with scores of 3-4 and 1-8, respectively.

“We probably didn’t bring our ‘A’ game this weekend,” sophomore Tyler Romasco said. “As a team we have a lot more to offer than we showed.”

The weekend started for the Blugolds at Hobbs Friday night when they hosted the Stevens Point Pointers. The first period ended scoreless, but the Pointers were the first on the board in the second period when they scored at the 4:39 mark. Stevens Point made two more goals in a row to put the Pointers up 3-0.

“Our defense is struggling,” coach Matt Loen said. “We are giving up too many good opportunities. We can get better in our own end.”

The Blugolds began to rally later into the period, when junior Ross Janecyk put Eau Claire on the board at about the 16-minute mark. Freshman Kurt Weston got his second assist of the night when Sophomore Nic Weight took advantage of a power play, bringing the Blugolds to within one goal of the Pointers.

The Pointers scored their fourth goal of the night less than a minute later, bolstering their lead to two goals. Eau Claire senior Joe Bluhm scored with just over 10 minutes remaining in the period to again minimize the Pointer lead to one. But neither team would score again, handing the Blugolds a 3-4 loss.

While the result of the game was disappointing, Romasco said the third period showed the capabilities of the Blugold team.

“At different points, we showed how good we can be when we play desperate,” Romasco said. “A few more lucky bounces and it would’ve been a tied game.”

The Blugolds moved on Saturday night to play NCHA leader St. Norbert on the road. The Green Knights came out firing and began the first period with three goals in less than six minutes. At the 11:09 mark, the Blugolds’ freshman Isaiah Bennis, assisted by fellow freshmen Fred Bidinger and Travis Peckskamp, scored to bring the team within two of the Green Knights, but it would be Eau Claire’s only goal of the game.

St. Norbert scored five more times throughout the game, with two goals in the second and three goals in the third period. In a rare occasion for the Blugolds this season, they were outshot by the Green Knights 44-22.

“It’s obviously tough to play at home and then drive three hours and play against the third-ranked team in the nation,” Loen said. “That was probably our worst game of the year. We’ve got to be more consistent with our work ethic.”

Eau Claire beat St. Norbert just two weeks earlier by a score of 5-1, but senior D.J. Clark said the nature of the game allows for anything to happen.

“Hockey is a weird game,” Clark said. “Anyone in our conference can win any given night. I think we just shut down a little early.”

The two losses drop the Blugolds’ record to 6-12-3 overall and 2-9-3 in the NCHA, also stretching Eau Claire’s losing streak to four games.

“We have to just make sure we become more consistent and play to our potential,” Romasco said. “We have a lot of depth and if we don’t show up we can get beat.”

Next the Blugolds face rival UW-Stout in the I-94 showdown tonight in Menomonie. Eau Claire has already played Stout twice this season in early December with solid results of a 3-0 win and a 2-2 tie. Menomonie is a tough team, Romasco and Clark said, but the Blugolds are confident they can play well against them.

Looking beyond the Stout game, solid play in the upcoming weeks is necessary for a good showing in the playoffs, Loen said.

“We’ve got to go into the playoffs on a high note,” Loen said. “We’re not going to win the conference, but we have to get going and play our best hockey.”