Men’s hockey splits conference games over weekend


Sophomore forward Patrick Moore pictured here against Bethel University (Minn.) about to assist on a goal. – Photo by Austin Mai

Story by Austin Mai, Staff Writer

Last season, the UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey team traveled to face UW-Stevens Point in the WIAC semifinals. After losing four games to the Pointers during the regular season, the Blugolds came back and beat their rival before claiming the WIAC title.

Despite earning the conference championship, Eau Claire watched as Stevens Point’s three additional wins and two less losses on it’s record earned a national championship bid.

The decision left a bad taste in player’s mouth’s since last March.

“Definitely bad blood (between our teams),” junior forward Ethan Nauman said. “We’ve got a score to settle.”

Eau Claire didn’t pull it off against No. 8 Stevens Point and were shutout in the 3-0 loss.

Head coach Matt Loen said he hopes his team can keep this loss in the back of their minds moving forward.

“They’re a veteran team and it was a good game,” Loen said. “They capitalized on a couple of our mistakes.”

The Pointers scored first on what Loen called a “nice” 3-on-2 line rush goal. His players were outnumbered in their own defensive zone and allowed a goal near the net. Stevens Point scored early and Loen said it was hard to turn the game around.

“The second goal was tipped and still found the net,” Loen said. “ … Not much (Tyler Green) could do on either of them and that was the difference of the game.”

 Eau Claire didn’t score once in the game and Loen credited the Pointers’ defense.

“They do a nice job protecting the front of their net,” Loen said. “I think we were lacking some net-front presence and drives.”

The Blugolds returned home to face UW-Superior Saturday night and flipped the script.

In the first period, Eau Claire took advantage of power-play opportunities and led 2-1 going into the second.

Junior defenseman Jeff Pauluk scored first, assisted by sophomore forwards Brandon Wahlin and Patrick Moore. Freshman forward Todd Koritzinsky scored with a minute to spare with assists from Nauman and senior defenseman Jack Callahan.

Nauman found the back of the net halfway through the second period with assists by Wahlin and Moore for the only goal of the period.

Freshman forward Mac Jansen scored an empty net goal with assists from Moore, and freshman forward T.J. Stuntz with one second left in the game before wrapping it up.

The team has struggled to take advantage of power-play chances this season, Loen said, but found success against the Yellowjackets.

“That’s a nice thing to add to our team,” Loen said. “Special teams can get involved with all of the games.”

Loen said the team has practiced well this week and looks to develop and improve power-play opportunities.

“We’ve been trying to do all sorts of different things,” Loen said. “Changing up personnel, and we changed our power play groups from Friday to Saturday without even practicing it.”

After this weekend’s matchups, the team will take a short break before returning to action on Jan. 9. Loen said his most important job is to keep the team focused heading into the break.

We want to make sure guys are staying in shape; it’s a huge component,” Loen said. “We want our guys working out over the break and we’ll get them going once they come back.”

Eau Claire plays Milwaukee School of Engineering 7 p.m. Friday and Lawrence University 7 p.m. Saturday, both at Hobbs Ice Center.