Women’s hockey looks to improve after last season

After finishing with four wins, team looks to increase scoring


Story by Austin Mai, Copy Editor

The 2014-2015 UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey team will showcase a young core of players after finishing 4-21-2 last season. With the departure of last season’s leading goalscorer forward Nikki Kothenbeutel, the team is looking for someone to take on her role.

Along with Kotenbeutel, defenseman Emily Larson, last season’s second-highest goalscorer and Hadley Cookson have left the team. Now senior and sophomore forwards Sam Knutson and Paige Dale are left as the team’s highest scorers from last season.

Both scored four goals last season while Dale recorded six assists and Knutson recorded four. This season’s captain, senior forward Andi Husted, recorded one goal and four assists last season.

“Last season was a tough year for us,” Knutson said. “we’re able to use it as an example and move forward, making changes to further benefit our team as a whole.”

Head coach Mike Collins said players will need to step up into scoring roles this season, and while there were positives last season, the team never got on track.

“You’re judged by your record and ours wasn’t very good,” Collins said. “We never really got on track and when you’re losing, it’s easy for things to go sideways and we never reeled it back in.”

Collins said he thought the incoming freshmen had a tough time adjusting from high school to college-level play last season and with a year of development the team will show improvement.

“They’ve made great strides and are aware of the areas that needed improvement,” Collins said. “I think we’re gonna have a lot more success this year.”

Knutson said it’s been important for both the incoming freshmen and the returning players to stay committed and continue their training on and off of the ice.

“We as a team are keeping an open mind with regards to new approaches and systems being introduced,” Knutson said.

This is Collins’ 15th season as head coach of the team and after helping form the program, his teams have posted double-digit wins in five of the past eight years.

Eau Claire will face the top three ranked teams from the West last season in UW- River Falls, UW- Stevens Point, and St. Thomas (Minn.) this season. Collins said the WIAC produces excellent hockey teams, and it’s good for a team’s development to have that competition within the conference. The team’s record in conference play last season was 0-11-1

After only six practices on the ice, the Blugolds travelled to begin a two-game series against Bethel University (Minn.) and lost 0-5 in their season opener. The next day, Eau Claire hosted the Royals to finish the series and fell short 5-2.

Knutson said the team wasn’t expecting perfection in the opening series.

“Bethel is always tough,” Knutson said. “They are a quick, talented and well coach team. They generate a lot of scoring opportunities which they took advantage of.”

She said the team found positives to take away from the weekend’s losses.

“As the weekend went on, we began to gel,” Knutson said. “We started to get a feel for each other and our new systems.

The team’s next game is set for 7:30 p.m. friday at University of St. Thomas (Minn.) and will return home for a matchup at 7 p.m. saturday against St. Catherine University (Minn.).