New and Improved Blugolds Look to Finish Season on a High Note

    New head coach Erik Strand continues to turn women’s hockey program around

    More stories from John Mattison


    In his first year as head coach for the women’s hockey team, Erik Strand has led the UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey team to their most successful year since 2011, and it’s not even February.

    Hobbs Ice Arena is a familiar place for head coach Erik Strand. A 2002 men’s hockey alumnus, Strand has been the assistant coach for the men’s team for the past eight seasons. Transitioning from coaching the men’s team to the women’s team has given Strand a new perspective as far as coaching goes he said.

    “The biggest difference between this year and the past years is having the final decision,” Strand said. “Instead of giving suggestions and making recommendations, I now have much more responsibility in running a team.”

    The Blugolds (9-8-4) have won four of their last six games and are looking to finish the season on a strong note, Strand said.

    With four games left in the regular season, coach Strand has been emphasizing the production of his special teams.

    “Making the most out of every power play is a focus we need to keep improving,” Strand said.

    Mariah Czech, a junior forward and assistant captain, said one of their goals is to have home-ice advantage when playoffs come around

    Czech has been a Blugold hockey player for three years and has seen her team struggle from time to time. She said a major key to the team’s success this season is everyone’s will and drive to succeed.

    “Coach has done a great job installing a new system.” Czech said. “He pushes us to work hard every day at practice to be our best, and every practice is a test, which motivates everyone to work 10 times harder.”

    Strand said he has been fortunate to have such a great staff around him, which is a big part of the reason the Blugolds have had success.

    “Assistant coach Taylor Ward has done an excellent job all season working with our defense. In addition, our depth and level of competition in practice has been high,” Strand said.

    Being an alumnus and former Blugold hockey player, Strand’s expectations for his team are as high as ever, he said.

    “All Blugolds have tremendous pride. Being a part of a university I love and having the opportunity to coach at this level has been great,” Strand said. “I’ve been in their shoes, fought their same battles and skated on the same ice.”

    The Blugolds look to continue playing at a high level as they battle conference-leading River Falls at 7 p.m. Saturday in Hobbs Ice Arena.