Clash of the WIAC Titans: UWEC men’s hockey narrowly lose both games in intense doubleheader

No. 8 ranked Blugolds lost to fellow conference giants No. 9 UWSP
 Fourth-year Willy Stauber looks intently at the puck. (Photo by Chico La Barbera, used with permission from Blugold Athletics)
Fourth-year Willy Stauber looks intently at the puck. (Photo by Chico La Barbera, used with permission from Blugold Athletics)

This weekend, the UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team clashed with their WIAC rivals UW-Stevens Point in a doubleheader. Friday’s matchup took place at Hobbs Municipal Ice Arena in Eau Claire, while Saturday’s matchup took place in K.B. Willet Arena in Stevens Point. 

Heading into both games, UW-Eau Claire held the eighth spot in the national rankings while UW-Stevens Point was just behind them at ninth. 

Over the past few years both of these teams have shared some tight matchups between each other, and the games they shared this weekend were no exception with both games being decided in the final moments.

At 7 p.m. on Friday, the first game took place. The first period of the game was a scoreless affair and the second period remained tied until the 12:51 mark when Leo Bacallao sliced the puck into the net for the Blugolds.

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Heading into the third period, the Pointers scored just less than three minutes in and with that, the scoring in regulation was over with the teams locked at 1-1. Ultimately UW-Stevens Point had the last say in the tightly fought affair, with a goal a little over a minute into overtime to win the contest.

After the game, coach Matt Loen said the game was a close matchup.

“It comes down to wall battles and 50/50 pucks and we came out on the wrong side of it,” Loen said. 

Despite the loss, Loen said that they have, “been looking pretty good all year.” 

Loen said both teams struggled on power-plays and praised the Blugold’s defense.

“UW-Stevens Point didn’t get any power-play goals either, so credit to us,” Loen said.

Second-year Max Gutjahr, the starting goaltender in both games, said the team made a defensive effort to “slow down UWSP’s rushes and be more aggressive in the defensive zone.” 

UW-Eau Claire lost to this UW-Stevens Point team 5-3 last month. Gutjahr said the Blugolds had tried to make some adjustments before facing them again.

“I think we tried to play more defensively,” Gutjahr said. “If you give up too much on a team like Stevens Point, they’ll take advantage of it.” 

That strategy almost worked, and helped give the Blugolds a better idea of some of the ways they can potentially frustrate UW-Stevens Point later on in the season.

The second game of the doubleheader remained close with no scores from either team through the first two periods. 

UW-Stevens Point scored early into the third period, forcing the Blugolds to pull their goalie in search of an equalizing goal. The Pointers scored the game sealing goal on an empty net with less than a minute to go for a final score of 2-0.

The new national rankings are out and despite narrowly losing both of their games this weekend, the Blugolds only fell one spot, meaning that they’re No. 9 in the nation. They won’t play until Jan. 5, 2024, where they’ll face St. Olaf College in Minnesota at the St. Olaf Ice Arena.


DaCosta can be reached at [email protected]

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