WIAC champions two years running

Despite winning conference title, UW-Eau Claire did not receive berth into NCAA Division III championship


Photo by Elizabeth Jackson

LOOKING FOR SPACE: Senior forward Mark Pustin carries the puck up the ice during the Blugold’s 3-0 title victory over UW-Superior Saturday. © 2014 Elizabeth Jackson

Story by Austin Mai, Staff Writer

Saturday night, UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey defeated rival UW-Superior 3-0 at Hobbs Ice Center to win their second straight WIAC championship.

The third-seed Blugolds hosted the championship game after defeating second-seed UW-Stevens Point in game two and the following mini game in the semifinals.

The fourth-seed Yellowjackets defeated first-seed UW-River Falls 2-0 to move on to the championship game.

From the beginning, this game featured lots of hits and physical play.

Halfway through the first period, freshman forward Patrick Moore scored seconds after missing an opportunity for an open net shot.

Senior forward Niko Kapetanovic made a pass from behind the net to get Moore the puck to put it away against Superior’s Dayn Belfour, the son of NHL Hall-of -Fame goalie Ed Belfour.

Sophomore defenseman Jeff Pauluk and Kapetanovic got the assists.

A few minutes later at 12:32, the Blugolds extended their lead as junior forward Ross Andersen and Moore went down the ice, making a 2-on-1 situation.

Andersen handled Moore’s pass and rocketed a shot over the goalie’s glove. Moore and Kapetanovic were credited with the assists.

The second period began and the Blugolds pushed the puck and extended their lead to 3-0.

At 8:41, Pauluk took a shot and missed. Junior forward Joe Krause recovered and snuck a shot through Belfour. Pauluk and senior defenseman David Donnellan assisted on the play.

Krause’s score marked the end of Blugold scoring for the day, but not even a first period bloody nose could stop Eau Claire’s goalie from blocking every shot Saturday.

Freshman Jay Deo had a career day as he blocked 42 shots on the way to the 3-0 victory, his fifth shutout of the year.

Head coach Matt Loen lived this experience last season, but still understands the importance of making it this far.

“Winning our conference was one of our goals set at the start of the season,” Loen said. “We’re all proud to win the championship for the university.”

Despite the championship win and an updated overall record of 19-8-1, the NCAA selection committee did not include Eau Claire in this year’s bid distribution for the national championship.

Considering the defending national champions just won their conference again, being left out of the national championship tournament left some Blugolds feeling wronged.

“It’s unfair,” Thauwald said. “We had 19 wins and won our conference tournament. We are ranked 7th in the nation and didn’t get a tournament bid … This doesn’t make sense to me.”

Whether it’s fair or unfair, the season is over.

It’s time for Loen and his staff to look at recruits and prepare for next season.

It’s time for the seniors to look back and appreciate their elite body of work over the last few years.

And it’s time for the underclassmen players to learn from this season, and get excited for the future.

“I think we have a really solid group of guys coming back,” Thauwald said. “With hard work and a few big recruits, we will have a shot at winning a national championship again.”