Women’s hockey advances to the WIAC Championship

Blugolds beat UW-Stevens Point in the semifinals both Friday and Saturday

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UW-Eau Claire’s women’s hockey team rejoices as they head into the WIA Championship after winning both games on Friday and Saturday against UW-Stevens Point.

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UW-Eau Claire’s women’s hockey team rejoices as they head into the WIA Championship after winning both games on Friday and Saturday against UW-Stevens Point.

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The UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey team started Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Championship play Friday, taking down UW-Stevens Point by a score of 4-1 and then again on Saturday with a score of 3-2.

Friday

Despite several early scoring opportunities for the Blugolds, it was Stevens Point who struck first at the 16:03 mark of the first period and took a 1-0 advantage going into the first intermission.

It wasn’t until the second period that the Blugolds started to rally up some points.

Eau Claire came out strong to start the second period, and took advantage of an early power play as freshman defense Sami Meister found the back of the net at 5:35, tying the game at 1-1.

Shots from both the Blugolds and the Pointers took place for the next few minutes but were either blocked or missed.

Ten minutes later, at 15:26 Eau Claire add another power play goal off the stick of sophomore forward, Kelly Knetter with assists from junior forward Jaedyn Walz and sophomore defense Holly Turnbull.

Just two minutes later, Turnbull tallied a goal of her own giving the Blugolds a 3-1 lead. Meister and Knetter were credited with assists for Eau Claire.

The Blugolds added to their lead in the final period at 6:43 as senior forward, Mariah Czech, found the back of the net for an unassisted goal, securing the 4-1 victory.

“I think we did a good job getting pucks deep in their zone, forcing them to have to start their breakout below the goal line,” Czech said.  “We also did a good job getting low shots on net and forcing rebounds.”

Turnbull said she thinks the team could have improved on starting the first period with the same amount of fire they had near the end of the third.

Eau Claire out-shot the Pointers 36-20 and had the edge in face-offs, 36-33.

Freshman goalkeeper Erin Connolly had another stellar performance, attaining 19 saves.

Saturday

Eau Claire got on the board first with a power play goal at 14:55 of the first period as Turnbull buried the puck into the net, thanks to an assist from Meister.

At 15:42 a penalty on Walz for cross-checking and a penalty on Meister for interference gave the Pointers a power play opportunity which they took to their advantage.

At 16:42 Stevens Point cut the Blugolds’ lead short as they scored a power play goal of their own tying up the game at 1-1.

The Pointers took their only lead of the game nine minutes into the second period off another power play goal. Stevens Point remained at the top of the scoreboard at 2-1 leading into the final period of the game.

Eau Claire entered the final period strong as junior defense Lauren Norgren slid the puck past the Pointers’ goalkeeper to earn the unassisted goal just one minute into the third period, to make the score 2-2.

The game was close until Turnbull scored the game-winning point, as well as her second goal of the day, with just three minutes before the end of the period, resulting in an end score of 3-2.

“I think this was a huge win for our team. Playoffs are all about who wants it more,” Turnbull said. “We faced a little adversity being down 2-1, but we battled hard and it really showed the character of our team. I’m really proud of our whole team; we couldn’t have won if we didn’t have 100 percent of our team pulling in the same direction.”

After winning this game the Blugolds are headed to the WIAC Championship where they play UW-River Falls next Saturday in River Falls.

This will be the Blugolds’ third time playing the Falcons this season; the previous two games resulted in Eau Claire wins.

“It all comes down to who wants it more.  We have to come into Saturday’s game knowing we can beat them for the third time this season and also show it on the ice,” Czech said. “On game day, preparation is critical; we have to be focused and determined to win. We have to work together as a team and also stay out of the penalty box. River Falls has a dangerous power play.”

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