A season of firsts comes to a close

    Women’s hockey’s first NCAA tournament berth ends in defeat

    More stories from Maggie Cipriano

    On Hawai’i Time
    December 3, 2018

    Photo by SUBMITTED

    Women’s hockey makes history twice by securing the WIAC championship title and making it into the NCAA tournament.

    This weekend had its share of ups and downs for the UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey team. The team celebrated its first ever appearance in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament, and followed it up with a first-round win Friday night.

    The exhilaration was cut short as the Blugolds lost their last NCAA tournament game on Saturday.

    Friday, the first NCAA tournament game was the longest in NCAA women’s hockey history. Playing Gustavus Adolphus College, Emma Peterson, first-year forward, ended the game with a goal in triple overtime.

    With 58 saves, goaltender Erin Connolly demolished her previous game best of 37 saves, putting her third in program history.

    Head coach Erik Strand said, “(Erin) kept us in there and gave us the opportunity to finish at the end.”

    Blugold Kelly Knetter, junior forward, scored the first goal of the night in the first period at 5:04. She scored off of a deflection shot by Monica Sjodin, junior defender, and had a second assist from Mariah Czech, senior forward.

    Again, Morgan Zirbel, first-year defender, scored off of a deflection. Bree Osborn and Jennifer Thomsen, both first-year defenders, would earn assists.

    Gustavus Adolphus College earned their first goal, making the score 2-1, 30 seconds before the first period ended. The score was stagnant until the end of the alloted game time as the Golden Gusties tied the score at two, sending the game into the first overtime.

    Despite the shot advantage the Gusties had, 60-29, the Blugolds pulled through as Peterson scored her fifth goal of the season winning that leg of the NCAA tournament.

    The win secured the Blugolds a new school record of 19 wins.

    Eau Claire fell to the Hamline University Pipers in their final game of the NCAA tournament Saturday night. The Pipers led the game 2-0 by the end of the first period, and scored again in the first minute of the second period.

    Courtney Wittig, junior forward, scored her 14th goal of the season for the Blugolds off of a power play. Peterson and Holly Turnbull, junior defender, helped in the assist.

    Czech scored off of a breakaway halfway through the third and final period making the score 3-1. The Blugolds outshot the Pipers 25-20, but could not secure the win.

    “It wasn’t the outcome we wanted but we enjoyed every second of it,” Wittig said.

    Coach Strand agreed that the ending was not ideal, but he, “couldn’t be more proud of this group… tonight mirrored exactly why this group is so special.”

    UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey ended their historic season with 19 wins, seven losses and four ties. They made their way into the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history, set a new school record for wins (19) and won their first O’Brien Cup.