‘Business as usual’ for Blugold men’s hockey

    UW-Eau Claire claims WIAC championship with comeback win over UW-Stevens Point

    Sam Johnson

    More stories from Sam Johnson

    The Tator
    December 13, 2022

    Photo by SUBMITTED

    Winter sports in the WIAC will begin competition Feb. 3

    The Men’s hockey team won the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship with a 4-2 win over UW-Stevens Point. After the comeback victory, their record improved with 22-4-2.

    The WIAC championship was held at UW-Stevens Point on Saturday, March 7, where the Blugolds, ranked No. 4 in the NCAA, defeated the No. 7 ranked Pointers by two goals.

    Within the first 12 minutes of play, the Blugolds had given up two goals. This did not change until there were three minutes remaining in the first period. 

    Zach Kennedy, third-year forward, initiated scoring for UW-Eau Claire.

    Throughout the rest of the game, the Blugolds scored three more unanswered goals — bringing the final score to 4-2.

    Matt Loen, head coach, said the win was not on the shoulders of any individual player. Rather, it was a team win.

    “If you look at the box score, you’ll see that we had two goals come from our first line and two goals come from our fourth line,” Loen said. “You could not ask for better results than that.”

    A two-goal deficit in a conference championship may sound like a big deal, but according to Logan Von Ruden, fourth-year defender, the men’s hockey team stays committed to their gameplan, regardless of the situation.

    “We committed to maintaining our composure and keeping the positivity no matter what,” Von Ruden said. “We went down 2-0, but we just stuck to what we needed to do.”

    UW-Stevens Point has been a challenge for UW-Eau Claire this season. Before Saturday’s game, the record between the two teams was 0-2-1, in the Pointers’ favor.

    The Pointers were the only team the Blugolds had played multiple games against without a win. 

    This trend was broken with their win on Saturday.

    With the conclusion of the conference, the Blugolds have the NCAA tournament on their horizon..

    According to the NCAA, the Division III men’s hockey tournament will host 12 teams. 

    These teams were announced at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday, March 9.

    The teams will play through a bracket to determine who the top four teams are. Those four teams will travel to Buffalo, New York to play in the “Frozen Four” championship games.

    Loen said defeating the Pointers on Saturday likely improved their placement in the bracket.

    Von Ruden said the team’s mentality regarding the NCAA tournament is to continue to play their game.

    “It’s business as usual,” Von Ruden said. “We knew we would get in. Our focus is to prepare for who we’re facing and when we’re facing them.”

    Loen was head coach during the team’s last appearance in the NCAA tournament as well. In 2013, the Blugolds were the NCAA Division III national champions.

    According to Loen, the 2013 coaching staff was less prepared than he believes they will be this year.

    “In 2013 it was all new to us,” Loen said. “Now, in 2020, we’re more experienced. We know what to expect.”

    The Blugolds received a first-round bye, which means their next matchup is against the winner of Saint Thomas’ and Lake Forest’s first round game.Johnson can be reached at [email protected].