Banner kind of weekend


Senior defenseman David Donnellan scored the UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team’s third goal of the night as they faced off against St. Olaf (Minn.). The Blugolds won the game 5-2. © 2013 Haley Zblewski

In the opening weekend of the UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey season, the reigning NCAA Division III national champions racked up two wins.

Counting back from last season, the Blugolds have now won six straight games, tying for the third longest winning streak in the team’s history.

Junior forward Joe Krause said a big part of the team’s winning style starts in the locker room.

“We have a good coaching staff and a good group of guys,” he said. “We’re all close knit. In the locker room, we’re all friends, there aren’t any cliques.”

Friday night, right before hosting St. Olaf College (Minn.), the Blugolds unveiled their NCAA championship banner with several of last season’s graduated seniors  looking on.

Head coach Matt Loen said it was a “huge” moment for the program.

“I think it also helped put closure on the championship, so we can move on to this season,” he said.

The unveiling set the mood for the night and sophomore defenseman Jeff Pauluk scored the first goal at 6:29 in the first period, capitalizing on a power play.

St. Olaf’s Dan Cecka followed up with a goal of his own 25 seconds later.

Krause said going into the night, the team wasn’t really sure what to expect.

“We had to get those first game quirks out of the way,” Krause said. “I mean, the first period of our first game, that was not our best.”

Penalties highlighted the rest of the period. About two minutes after the first two goals, four players, two from each team, were sent to the penalty box after a fight broke out on the ice. From St. Olaf, one was for hooking and one for roughing, and from Eau Claire, one for roughing and one for hitting after the whistle.

But the team kept pressing St. Olaf and were able to get ahead.

During the second period, the Blugolds took 13 shots and scored on three of them. Krause assisted with all three goals, the first of which was scored by junior defenseman Jack Callahan.

Senior defenseman David Donnellan and junior forward Ross Andersen made the other two goals.

Krause said he was just trying to get the puck to the net.

“I was just out there making simple plays, and at least two of them worked,” Krause said. “At least one bounced right off the goalie’s pad and right to Donnellan, and he was able to get it in.

Both teams struggled to score during the third period, with neither willing to give up a goal. But with 39 seconds left on the clock, Blugolds senior forward Niko Kapetanovic sunk the puck on an empty net, bringing the final score to 5-2.

Saturday, the Blugolds were up against St. John’s University (Minn.), and things got even rougher on the ice, Donnellan said. The night was, in a sense, a rematch from the NCAA first round in the playoffs, which the Blugolds won 4-2.

And the no. 1 ranked Blugolds were able to keep that winning streak against St. Johns and defeated them 3-1.

“When we faced them last season, we ended their season, so it felt like we had to put up a bigger battle against them,” Donnellan said.

Donnellan scored the first goal of the night on a powerplay, and senior forward Daniel Olszewski came out with a shorthanded goal in the

second period.

The team was able to keep St. Johns from scoring until the third period, and sophomore goalie Tyler Green was able to block the rest of St. Johns whopping 35 shots that night.

Overall, Green held his own against the Minnesota teams, blocking 54 out of 57 shots over the weekend. Last season, Green only spent 20 minutes in the net, with then-goalies Brandon Stephenson and Alex Bjerk seeing much of the goaltending action.

Loen said Green looked nervous Friday.

“We didn’t know what to expect because we really didn’t have anyone with any experience as a goalie,” Loen said. “(Green) looked nervous on Friday, and rightfully so. It had been a while since Tyler really played. But he settled in on Saturday.”

This weekend, the Blugolds will be facing Hamline University (Minn.) on Friday and Bethel University (Minn.) on Saturday. Donnellan said he’s looking forward to travelling to Minnesota to face off against them.

“They’re two teams we should be able to go in and beat.”