The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Men’s hockey captures first national championship in school history

    Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. has been host to more than a few historic hockey games.

    It’s where the 1980 Olympic win for the American hockey team, also known as the “Miracle on Ice,” happened.

    And on March 16, the UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team was able to make some of their own history at the arena as well.

    For the first time in school history, the Blugolds claimed the NCAA Div. III National Championship with a 5-3 win over Oswego State (N.Y.).

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    The UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team celebrates after winning the school's first national championship with a 5-3 victory over Oswego State (N.Y.) March 16.
    The UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team celebrates after winning the school’s first national championship with a 5-3 victory over Oswego State (N.Y.) March 16.

    Senior goalie Brandon Stephenson said the experience was amazing.

    “Words can’t really describe how happy we were to bring that trophy back to Eau Claire,” Stephenson said.

    The night before, the Blugolds defeated Utica College (N.Y.) in the semifinals, after being down 1-0 into the second period.

    In the final game against Oswego, they fell behind 2-0 halfway through the first period. But that didn’t worry the Blugolds.

    The team’s goal was to stay calm and keep playing, Stephenson said.

    “We realized we were outplaying Oswego even though they had scored their two goals,” he said. “As a team, we felt like we weren’t in trouble at all.”

    They responded with four goals of their own, keeping Oswego from scoring again until halfway through the third period.

    Oswego pulled their goalie from the net.

    Senior Kurt Weston scored the final goal of the night with 59 seconds left on an empty net.

    Sophomore defenseman Jack Callahan said the championship win almost doesn’t seem real.

    “It still kind of hasn’t set in yet … everyone’s still just like ‘can you believe it happened?’” Callahan said. “It’s like we’re still waiting to lose a game, but we won the last game we could play all season.”

    He said the team played as they had all season.

    “All year, we just never gave up,” he said. “In both games, we were losing at the start. And we just had this calm confidence within our locker room, especially from our captains. We never got rattled.”

    What it comes down to is something that the team refers to as Blugold hockey.

    “Blugold hockey … as stupid as it sounds, for the boys, we were such a close group,” Callahan said. “Any of us would do anything for each other, and it translated to the ice.”

    Stephenson said Blugold hockey was about the work the Blugolds have put in.

    “Everything we do, we do it as a team,” he said. “This year, for me at least, (Blugold hockey) represents our seniors that I started out with here and what we basically built in our four years. We went from an OK, mediocre hockey team to a national championship team. I think when you say Blugold hockey, it just makes you think of what we’ve accomplished.”

    For his coaching accomplishments this season, Head Coach Matt Loen was named the NCAA Div. III Coach of the Year.

    He said the first-ever national championship was a great achievement for the program and he was excited for his team.

    For their performance on the ice this season, Callahan, Stephenson and senior forward Jordan Singer were all named 2013 CCM Div. III All-Americans.

    Callahan said the award was a bit of a shock for him, albeit a happy one.

    “To be honest, I didn’t even know I was a finalist for it,” he said. “In the banquet, we were sitting there and they were announcing the second team and the third team. And all of a sudden I heard ‘sophomore defenseman from Eau Claire,’ and my ears perked up because I’m the only one.”

    Stephenson said that getting three All-American awards happened because of a group effort.

    “Without my teammates, I wouldn’t be able to win the games and do the things that we did,” Stephenson said. “It’s an awesome accomplishment for all three of us, but without our teammates, we wouldn’t have won.”

    Stephenson is one of ten seniors on the hockey team and this was his last season on the team.

    He said he felt it ended on a pretty good note, and was surprised that the end didn’t hit him as hard as he thought it would.

    “I thought it would be a lot harder than it is, but I think that’s because we went out in the best possible way you could, and that’s as a national championship,” he said. “There’s no more games we could continue playing. There’s no saying ‘I wish we could have won,’ because we did. That’s made the transition that much easier. “It’s awesome to go out on top. There’s no better way.”

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    Men’s hockey captures first national championship in school history