Eau Claire hockey suffers first home loss since last season’s playoff mini-game

Blugolds split home games, find success against one of last season’s best goalies



Blugolds fans can look back on Friday’s 2-1 home loss to Concordia University Wisconsin’s Cardinals and ask why Eau Claire didn’t do more with the puck in the attacking zone.

The No. 10 UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team’s 34 shots Friday wasn’t far off its 35.4 shots per game average, but the team didn’t capitalize on those shots or power play opportunities.

Head coach Matt Loen said the loss is that much tougher because it was at home. Loen said he didn’t like the energy.

“…We were kind of just looking around waiting for someone else to do the work and not going out and doing it ourselves,” Loen said.

Before the weekend, about 13.5 percent of Blugolds’ shots became goals. After the weekend, including Friday night’s dry outing, that percentage dropped to 12.

The Blugolds have jumped on power-play opportunities dating back to their national championship run three seasons ago, but they were only able to score one goal on six opportunities Friday.

Power-play opportunities, which are gametime instances with uneven matchups of players following penalties, allow the team with the majority of players on the ice to apply more pressure on less defenders.

After the weekend, the team’s power-play percentage dropped from 32 to just under 28 percent.

While the difference may not appear vast now, if the Blugolds cannot keep these percentages high it may show against the slew of high-level competition left on the Blugolds schedule. This includes this Saturday’s game against Marian University on the road.

The Sabres post a misleading 2-3-3 record, but have faced what could be considered the toughest start to a schedule in all of NCAA Division III hockey. Marian opened its season with back-to-back games against perennial national championship contender St. Norbert College and has been the only team to defeat the Green Knights so far this season.

If Saturday’s rebound game against Lake Forest College (Ill.) was any indication, Eau Claire should be in good shape.

After a silent first period featured 16 goal-less shots from the Blugolds, they put two goals on the board courtesy of junior forward Adam Knochenmus. He has scored at least two goals over the past two Saturdays during games against Lake Forest and Concordia College-Moorhead (Minn.).

Knochenmus said simply putting more pressure on the opposing defense was able to fix their woes from the previous night and the first period.

“We finally started bringing the puck to the net and making some shots,” Knochenmus said. “Once we got some guys by the net, shots were starting to open up.”

Eau Claire put together an impressive game overall and defeated Lake Forest 5-1. The Blugolds held the Foresters scoreless until they snuck in a garbage-time goal with less than 30 seconds left in the game.

The five goals were scored against Leo Podolsky, who was one of the nation’s top goalies last season.

Despite the success, Loen said that’s the way the team should play every night.

“We dictated the play and we generated a lot of shots,” Loen said. “We played the style of hockey that we wanted to play, and look at the results.”

The Blugolds’ Thanksgiving break will be cut short with two games on the road this weekend. Eau Claire will play Lawrence University for the second time this year at 4 p.m. Friday then to face Marian University at 8 p.m. Saturday. Both games will be played at Marian.