Two points out of first

Story by Ryan Spoehr, Copy Editor

For the majority of the first semester, the UW-Eau Claire Men’s Hockey team stole many of the headlines on campus as they have risen to a no. 3 national rank. However, heading into winter break, they may not be the only hockey team on campus worth talking about around the water cooler in Eau Claire.

Over the weekend the women’s hockey team swept a two game series against Marian University (Fond Du Lac) to improve 5-5-2 and 5-3-2 in the National Collegiate Hockey Association, giving them a six game unbeaten streak. Marian, a team that hasn’t won since Nov. 10, came into the
series 3-4-2.

“I think the most important thing is when not playing the upper echelon teams, the key is not playing down,” said Mike
Collins, Women’s Hockey head coach. “(Marian) is not a great team, they are improved, but just playing our game is important and we definitely accomplished that.”

With the series sweep, the team now has 12 points in the standings going into the break. That point total is good for a
two-way tie for third in conference and just two points behind conference-leading Adrian College (Minn.) and UW-River Falls, who are ranked 10th and sixth respectively in this week’s
USCHO.com national Div. III poll. Eau Claire was not in the top 10, but did receive a vote in the poll.

“As a team we are thrilled to be in the spot we are at in the rankings,” said sophomore guard Sam Knutson. “It proves to us that our hard work really is paying off.”

Knutson had her part in the series against Marian. She scored a power play goal with just more than 10 minutes to go in the second period of game 1 on Saturday to break a 1-1 tie, her third consecutive game with a point.

Knutson said that in the last few weeks of practice, the team has been working on several things, including getting shots off and getting people to the opposing nets for rebounds. She said that has helped her in improving her presence on the ice.

“With the drills (Collins) incorporates into practice, it made me realize how important it is to get to open ice and take advantage of any opportunity I can to get a shot off,” Knutson said. “So I’ve tried to be more aware of open space and open lanes to the net.”

In game one, the Blugolds got off to a one-goal lead off a goal at 9:51 in the first period by Ashley Baugher, a freshman forward, and was assisted by Taylor Bowker, also a freshman forward. That lead soon evaporated when Kristen Skubic, a sophomore forward and defender. After Knutson’s goal to make it 2-1, which was assisted by Emily Larson and Nikki Kothenbeutel, Megan Sesing-Gomoll, a senior defender tied it back up with an unassisted goal in the second.

In the third, Amanda Kane scored an unassisted goal at 1:35 in the period to take the 3-2 lead, which proved to be the game-winning goal as the Blugolds won 3-2.

In game two, Kane picked up right where she left off with a goal at 13:03 in the first period, assisted by seniore defender
Katie Ward. This would set the tone for what would be a one-sided game for the most part. The Blugolds would add one more goal in the first when Nikki Kothenbeutel scored after being assisted by Hadley Cookson and Andi Husted. In the third, Emily Larson scored two goals, one assisted by Casey McMullen and one unassisted on an empty net to top off the 4-1 win with less than two minutes to go.

Starting in goal in both games was freshman Kim Van Brunt. These were her first two starts of the year, giving up three goals n the entire series. Paige Turner, who had started the previous four games in the Blugolds unbeaten streak, was out due to a concussion. Mara Stormer, the other backup goalie for Eau Claire, was out due to the flu.