Women’s hockey wins first game of the season

    New head coach expects to take lessons learned from UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey to develop team


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    After a 15 year era with Mike Collins at the helm, the UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey team is starting over with a clean slate and a new head coach.

    Eau Claire won 3-0 their first game of the season Friday followed by 2-1 loss in overtime on Saturday.

    Erik Strand, the Blugolds new head coach, said he was pleased with the team’s performance in both games after only nine days of practice heading into the weekend.

    Although the team lost Saturday night after falling behind early, Strand said they played a more complete game and is happier with how they performed on night two.

    “It was great to see that group pick themselves up and not let it affect our pursuit of our game plan,” Strand said.

    Senior goalie Paige Turner agreed the team played better Saturday. Turner said the team’s systems were better as well as nerves, which allowed them to play more as a team.

    “We just didn’t get the bounces we needed,” Turner said.

    With experience as a lead assistant coach for the Eau Claire men’s hockey team the past eight seasons, Strand said his main goal this season is to build a culture he expects of the team.

    “I’ve been very fortunate to have been a part of the building on the men’s side,” Strand said. “We didn’t do everything overnight, it was learned…I’ll be able to take those examples and build.”

    Strand said switching from the men’s side to the women’s was a tough decision when considering the relationships he had gained with each of the men, but said he knew it was the right decision to take the new position.

    “I’ve been excited about and still am excited about this privilege,” Strand said. “It truly is a privilege.”

    Turner said she’s looking forward to what Strand can bring to the team and believes he’s going to help the team with their systems and in their growth as players.

    “I’m proud to have him as our coach,” Turner said.

    Turner said the new systems Strand teaches include more aggressive defensive and offensive zones making it hard for the other team to set themselves up.

    “Strand’s systems work well with all the players,” Turner said. “There’s not just one separate player that might do well in the system, everyone can succeed. It makes everyone’s jobs easier.”

    With the transition from men’s hockey to women’s, Strand said his coaching hasn’t changed.

    “My team now is hockey players, just like it is on the men’s side,” Strand said. “I still have my expectations and my standards.”

    Going forward in the season Strand said he’s excited about the team’s ability to be consistent on all lines and people should be expecting to see that depth from the team on the ice.

    “I like our players,” Strand said. “We had two players that didn’t dress this weekend that very easily could have been in the lineup over two other people.”

    Despite last year’s 5-21-1 record, Turner said she expects they will refute the tendency for other teams to perceive them as the underdogs. The new generation of players will help, Turner said.

    “I think they’re going to be very surprised to see the new Blugold team,” Turner said of upcoming opponents.

    Turner said she can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will hold and said she couldn’t be any more proud of the team and the work ethic they’ve shown.