Women’s hockey dominates in WIAC semifinals

    Next up is the conference championship after a sweep of UW-Superior

    More stories from Maggie Cipriano

    On Hawai’i Time
    December 3, 2018

    Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

    Jaedyn Walz records a hat trick on Saturday to propel the Blugolds past UW-Superior and into the WIAC Championship game.

    This past Friday and Saturday Hobbs Arena was packed with blue and gold buzzing with excitement as the two teams took the ice.

    The excitement paid off as UW-Eau Claire secured the win both Friday and Saturday in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Championship semifinal games. Next week the Blugolds will be playing in the championship.

    “We played a solid 120 minutes of hockey this past weekend. Nobody did anything extraordinary, we just all played our game,” Jaelyn Walz, senior forward, said.

    Friday, the Blugolds came out on top against UW-Superior. In the first period, there were 20 shots, yet no team scored.

    In the second period at 13:45, Superior scored their one and only goal off of a power play. Superior’s lead did not last long as Courtney Wittig, junior forward, scored a power play goal at 14:35 with an assist from Holly Turnbull, junior, defensemen and Hanna Zavoral, first-year forward.

    In the third period, the Blugolds added two points to secure their place. A goal was scored off of a rebound by Erin Goodell, junior forward, in under three minutes of the third period to give Eau Claire the lead.

    Later, Kelly Knetter, junior, forward scored on a breakaway making the score a stable 3-1. Goalie Erin Connolly, second-year, saved 19 shots to upgrade to 15-5-4 on the season.

    Eau Claire out shot Superior 38-20 for the win. The Blugolds (16-6-4) and Yellowjackets (14-10-2) played again on Saturday.

    Saturday ended with a bang as the Blugolds prevailed against the Yellowjackets for the second time with a 7-2 final score.

    “Everything is executed at a high level. A 7-2 win in our conference… you just don’t see that,” head coach Erik Strand said.

    Walz recorded a hat trick as the game went on, scoring one goal in the first period and two more in the second period.

    In the first period, three goals were scored for the Blugolds. Emma Peterson, first-year forward, scored the first Blugold goal at 7:26 with assists from Lexi Wilson and Monica Sjodin, both of whom are juniors.

    Walz scored for her first time just over a minute later, with the help of a power play. Knetter and Mariah Czech, senior forward, would earn assists on the goal.

    Superior received their second goal at the 14:24 mark, but Czech would add another goal to the Blugold side with two minutes left in the first period off of a rebound.

    Walz earned her second goal of the day two minutes into the second period and would earn the hat trick only 12 minutes later.

    The Blugolds were not done, as Courtney Wittig, junior forward, scored the sixth Blugold goal on a power play at 11:34 of the third period.

    Superior replied with a goal of their own, while Knetter would cancel that out with just four seconds remaining in the game to give the Blugolds the 7-2 win.

    “Coach has ingrained in our heads from the beginning of the season that preparation for a regular game and a national championship game should be the same.” Walz said. “That way if we find ourselves in that position, we will be able to sleep soundly and perform at our best.”

    In goal, Connolly recorded 19 saves to earn her 16th win of the season. The Blugolds also had an advantage in shots for the game at 52-21.

    “We will go into (the championship) with little to no pressure,” Strand said. “It’s exciting.”

    For the second-straight season, Eau Claire will take on UW-River Falls for the WIAC title. The Falcons claimed a 3-2 overtime win a year ago, but in their last game on Feb. 17, the Blugolds won 3-0. The O’Brien Cup will take place on March 3. Follow the action on Blugold Game Day.