UW-River Falls, just a short one hour drive down Highway I-94 from UW-Eau Claire. This is a trip that the Blugold Women’s hockey team normally takes only twice a year to play the Falcons.
But this year the Blugolds will be taking I-94 to River Falls two weeks in a row as they will face off this weekend in their final regular season game, and the following week in the opening round of the playoffs.
After this past weekend’s 5-0 loss to the Falcons in their final home game, the Blugolds will need to be a lot more consistent and hope to get some more bodies back from injury head coach, head coach Mike Collins said.
On Saturday against River Falls the Blugolds gave up all five goals in the first period while allowing 26 shots on goal, something that the team can’t allow in a period again, junior goalie Paige Turner said.
“We need to continuously be working defensively to keep up,” Turner said. “We need to be communicating on our end as a group, and not helping them offensively is the biggest thing.”
After the first period Saturday, Eau Claire did a good job of patching the defensive holes and getting the puck out of their zone not allowing a single goal after the opening period, something the team has continued to work on Turner said.
Collins said the a big challenge for the Blugolds is cutting the time their opponents have the puck in their zone down, and communicating to get the puck up ice.
“In order for us to get back to playing well we need to be able to control our opponents offense in our zone for a full 60 minutes,” Collins said.
As this past weekend’s game continued to get out of hand, the Blugolds frustrations got the best of them, as they were whistled for multiple unsportsmanlike penalties late in the second period and into the third
Turner said matchups with River Falls are always a battle because the Falcons are strong as a team.
The recent matchup this past weekend with the Falcons however, will give the Blugolds something to learn from so they give their best game when it matters the most Collins said.
“Although we aren’t looking past this weekends matchup to end our regular season, it will be helpful to see their tendencies and how we continue to match up,” Collins said.
The Blugolds have had multiple injuries in the past few weekend’s with only 5 defenders to rotate in and off the ice, not allowing the team to have a full three lines. They hope to have a few players back this weekend, including junior Ashley Baugher, who’s recovering from a concussion.
Turner said she is optimistic about their chances in the next two weeks despite their struggles against the Falcons this season as they sit 0-3 against them, referencing the recent upset for the Blugold men’s team over Stevens Point.
“This past weekend the men’s team beat Stevens Point who was favored in the series,” Turner said. “This just shows us that if we can play as a team and can stick with them we will give ourselves a shot at a win.”