March 2, 2013

Blugolds Fall Short in Peters Cup Final

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) — It was a tale of two different teams, with two different histories. The UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team was searching for its first Peters Cup, while St. Norbert College was going after its 11th and final Peters Cup.

Despite the home-ice advantage, it was the team with history on its side, the Green Knights (23-5-1), that came out on top with the 3-0 win over the Blugolds (20-5-2) in front of a sold-out crowd at Hobbs Ice Center.

UW-Eau Claire hosted their first ever Peters Cup final, and it just so happened to be the final one, as the NCHA will disband after this season. It also just so happened to be the first time the Green Knights were trying to win the Peters Cup on the road.

The two teams met three times this season, and this game turned out to be eerily similar to the last time the two teams met at Hobbs, only this time, it was St. Norbert College that came out on top.

The Green Knights got on the board first at 4:30 of the first period on a beautiful 2-on-1 play that pulled Blugold goaltender Brandon Stephenson (Sr.-Saline, Mich./Saline) one way and allowed Brandon Hoogenboom to deposit the puck in the empty net. That was how the first period would end, despite the Blugolds' 12-6 edge in the shots department.

The second period was back-and-forth for the most part and also saw the first penalties of the game. The Blugolds had two chances with the man-advantage but failed to convert, leaving the door open for the Green Knights.

Late in the period, it appeared the Blugolds dodged a bullet as Stephenson faced down a breakaway, but the shot went wide of the net. St. Norbert College never game up on the play though, and Chris Rial put one top-shelf over Stephenson's shoulder.

A penalty on the Blugolds late in the third period gave the Green Knights 1:30 on the man advantage to start the third period. The defense held strong, but they were not able to solve Green Knight's goalie, David Jacobson.

At 8:10, it was Rial again, who put the dagger in the Blugolds. Rial streaked down the left-side boards and came in on Stephenson alone and took a shot that seemed to confuse Stephenson and beat him through the five-hole for a 3-0 lead.

Much like the last time the two teams met, it was a goalie that stole the show and proved to be the difference. Last time it was Stephenson, posting a 40-save shutout. This time, it was Jacobson who was unbeatable, finishing with 33 saves in the shutout effort.

It was a relatively clean game, with only six penalties between the two teams. The Blugolds were 0-for-4 on the power-play, while the Green Knights were 0-for-2.

With the win, St. Norbert College won not only its' 11th Peter's Cup, but their fourth-straight. The win also gives them an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, where they will try to defend their back-to-back National Championship's.

The Blugolds will now have to wait until tomorrow night (March 3) at 10 p.m. (Eastern) to see if they earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship. The selections will be posted on NCAA.com and the tournament will get underway March 6.

-JM-


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