Eau Claire men’s hockey looks to continue winning ways following conference wins, going 4-1 over break

Men’s hockey team on hot streak following doubleheader wins against UW-River Falls

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Eau Claire men’s hockey looks to continue winning ways following conference wins, going 4-1 over break

Adam Knochenmus and the Blugolds have won seven of their last eight games and look to keep their momentum this weekend versus UW-Stout.

Adam Knochenmus and the Blugolds have won seven of their last eight games and look to keep their momentum this weekend versus UW-Stout.

Photo by Austin Mai

Adam Knochenmus and the Blugolds have won seven of their last eight games and look to keep their momentum this weekend versus UW-Stout.

Photo by Austin Mai

Photo by Austin Mai

Adam Knochenmus and the Blugolds have won seven of their last eight games and look to keep their momentum this weekend versus UW-Stout.

Story by Austin Mai, Op/Ed Editor

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Approaching this season’s winter break, the UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team looked at its 7-3-2 record and felt a sense of deja vu.

Last season at the break, the Blugolds had a 7-3-1 record with the ghosts of those three losses haunting them.

Head coach Matt Loen previously said losing twice to St. Norbert College and UW-Stevens Point at home early last season were instances when the team needed to take a breath and play for each other.

After the 2014 winter break, the team won the next five in a row and finished with a 17-8-1 record before participating in the WIAC championship tournament. Eau Claire defeated Stevens Point in the WIAC semifinals and handled UW-Superior 3-0 at home to claim the conference title.

With a similar record, the Blugolds looked to improve their play from 2014 to 2015, and Loen believed it would start with cohesion.

“We brought in 11 freshmen this season,” Loen said. “That’s almost half of the team. They came to a program with high expectations, and I think that was an issue we had during the first half (of the season).”

Loen said after returning, the freshmen knew what to expect and have been ready to compete at a higher level. Junior forward Ethan Nauman said there has been a noticeable change since break.

“Ever since break our team has seemed to get a lot closer,” Nauman said. “People are starting to buy in now, and after last weekend we gained some confidence and it’s pretty scary to see where we can go if this confidence keeps building.”

Eau Claire has gone 4-1 since the winter break, starting against Marian University at home. The Blugolds’ top scorers, senior forward Ross Andersen and Nauman each scored once in the 5-3 win.

The Blugolds traveled to Augsburg College (Minn.) and earned their third win in a row against the Auggies with a 4-1 victory. Sophomore goalie Jay Deo saved 26 of 27 shots while Eau Claire capitalized in power play situations, scoring a power-play goal in five straight games.

The team’s only loss since the break came after traveling to the University of St. Thomas (Minn.). Eau Claire allowed a power-play goal for the first time in nine games and after putting up two points in the first period, didn’t score again in the 3-2 loss.

No. 14 Eau Claire had a major conference doubleheader set at No. 3 UW-River Falls and Nauman said the team showed what’s it made of when it mattered most.

“Going into the game, we knew we were better than them,” Nauman said. “We knew River Falls was a good team but they hadn’t played anyone too hard besides (Stevens) Point, but other than that they had a pretty weak schedule.”

Nauman said the team entered the game with that confidence and it took over the game.

The Blugolds clipped the Falcons 5-2 beginning with Nauman finding the back of the net five minutes into the first period. Eau Claire went 2 for 4 on power play opportunities and carried the momentum into the next night’s match.

Sophomore forward Patrick Moore led the team in scoring with two goals, as he first scored at the start of the second period and halfway through the third period. Once again the Blugolds scored a power-play goal before leaving River Falls with the 4-3 win.

Eau Claire now has an 11-4-2 record and hosts UW-Stout  for a double header  on alumni weekend. The games are set for 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Hobbs. Ice Center.

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