February 9, 2013

Blugolds Claim First NCHA Championship Outright

SUPERIOR, Wis. (Blugolds.com) — With at least a share of the conference title and a first round bye in the NCHA tournament already wrapped up, the UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team needed a win or a tie over UW-Superior to take the title outright and prevent St. Norbert from earning a share of the championship.

The Blugolds (19-4-2, 14-3-1 NCHA) did just that with a 4-1 win over the Yellowjackets (11-12-2, 6-10-2 NCHA) Saturday night on the road in the final regular season game. A night after they were shutout by the College of St. Scholastica (Minn.), the Blugolds got out to a lead against the Yellowjackets.

Friday night the Blugolds were hurt by two goals late in the first period. But on this night, they used that to their advantage. Jordan Singer (Sr.-Lino Lakes, Minn./Centennial) scored a power-play goal with just 13 seconds remaining in the period for the 1-0 lead.

In the second period, it was Singer again who scored his team leading, 18th goal of the season for a 2-0 lead. But the Yellowjackets weren't about to let the Blugolds go quietly. At 17:01 of the second period, UW-Superior cut the lead in half and the Blugolds led 2-1 heading into the second intermission.

Early in the third period, Andrew Wilcox (Sr.-Rochester, Minn./Century) gave the Blugolds a little breathing room with assists by Daniel Olszewski (Jr.-Janesville, Wis./Craig) and Derek Knetter (Fr.-Wausau, Wis./West).

At 16:27, Ethan Nauman (Fr.-Mosinee, Wis./Mosinee) put the exclamation point on the game with an assist to Isaiah Bennis (Sr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial).

Brandon Stephenson (Sr.-Saline, Mich./Saline) made 27 saves to pick up his 17th win of the season. But despite the final score, the Blugolds were outshot 28-16, but they made the best of their chances.

The Blugolds were 1-for-5 on the power-play while the Yellowjackets were 0-for-3 on the man advantage.

The Blugolds become the first team beside St. Norbert to win the NCHA regular season championship since 2008-09, when the Yellowjackets took the honors. It is also the first NCHA championship for UW-Eau Claire in the final year of the conference's existence.

Next season, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Superior and UW-River Falls will break off to play in the more traditional WIAC conference.

The win tonight also gave the team the school's single-season wins record. The most wins the Blugolds had acheived prior to this season's current total of 19 was 18 during the 1989-90 school year, a season the team played 34 total games.

The Blugolds will now wait for the results of the quarterfinal action in the NCHA tournament to find out their opponent for the semifinals. They will host the semifinal game at Hobbs Ice Center, Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. 

-JM-


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