Blugolds’ defense ties record

The UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team ties record for most consecutive shutouts

Junior forward Ross Anderson passes the puck during the Blugolds 2-0 shutout win against No. 6-ranked St. Thomas (Minn.) on Friday at Hobbs Ice Center.
© Elizabeth Jackson

Photo by Elizabeth Jackson

Junior forward Ross Anderson passes the puck during the Blugolds’ 2-0 shutout win against No. 6-ranked St. Thomas (Minn.) on Friday at Hobbs Ice Center. © Elizabeth Jackson

Story by Austin Mai, Staff Writer

Entering Friday night, the UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team hadn’t lost in six games and shut out its opponents four straight times.

Standing in the way of extending these streaks was St. Thomas (Minn.), who came into Hobbs Ice Center ranked No. 6 in the country. Plus, Tommies goalie Drew Fielding entered the game with five shutouts of his own on the season.

But thanks to physical play on the defensive end, the Blugolds were able to rise to the challenge and extend both streaks by downing the Tommies 2-0.

Head coach Matt Loen said the team is looking past the record and looking for wins.

“We are not thinking about the shutouts. Regardless of the score, we want to win,” Loen said.  “We have systems in place to make it difficult on the other team and we hope our goalie can make some saves.”

As the game started, defense rose to prominence as the goalies from both sides were keeping things tight. Sophomore goalie Tyler Green had eight saves while Fielding had 14 in the first period.

Both sides struggled to score early on. The game would continue scoreless until 16:14 in the first period when junior defenseman Chris Heineman scored with an assist from sophomore forward Ethan Nauman.

“Yeah, it got pretty chippy during the game,” Heineman said. “We wanted to be physical from the start and keep the energy going our way.”

Following the score, a scuffle led to penalties including a minor slashing call for St. Thomas freshman defenseman Charlie Donlin and a five minute major kicking penalty resulting in a disqualification for senior forward Daniel Olszewski.

The penalties continued into the second period with a minor tripping call on St. Thomas. But at 7:48, a full-on fight broke out in front of the Eau Claire net. Several players were involved and after separation, six penalties for roughing were handed out. Three to Eau Claire, three to St. Thomas.

In a period which saw a combined 12 penalties, junior defenseman Jack Callahan helped provide some cushion for the Blugolds when he scored on a rebound from teammate senior forward Jon Waggoner.

Freshman defenseman Preston Hodge picked up an assist on the goal.

In the third period, Eau Claire continued their attack when junior forward Ross Andersen capitalized off the faceoff and created a turnover.

From the blue line he raced to the other end only to be hooked, as the referee called for the penalty shot.

Andersen approached from the right side, gained speed and tried a final move on the goalie, but Fielding stopped the shot with his leg pad.

With a tripping penalty called before the penalty shot and another tripping penalty called shortly after the failed attempt, the Blugolds were left with a short rink 5-on-3, but the remaining players provided a stout defense and helped the Blugolds to 11-3-1 this season.

But the youth may have been busy enjoying the fanfare of snack food, music in between playing time, friends and the subtle hype of being out on a Saturday night to notice the team’s record triumphs. The Blugolds extended their undefeated streak to seven games and their shutout streak to five, tying an NCAA record for most consecutive shutout games.

Eau Claire starter and senior forward Jared Williams said even with their record breaking play, winning no matter what is the mindset.

“Coach hasn’t mentioned it (the streaks) much,” Williams said. “We all want to keep playing at this level and not slow down.”

Green went on to make 39 saves on the night.

The UW-River Falls Falcons travel to Eau Claire with a 3-0 conference record this weekend for a couple games. The Blugolds also have the chance to break the NCAA record for game time without allowing a goal, needing 17 minutes and 55 seconds.