LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (Blugolds.com) – The fourth-ranked UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team will play for the 2013 NCAA Division III title after defeating seventh-ranked Utica College (N.Y.) 5-1 in the semifinals at Herb Brooks Arena Friday night.
With both teams playing in their first NCAA Division III Frozen Four, it took time for them to adjust to the Olympic-sized ice rink.
"It was kind of tough to adjust to the game speed on the Olympic sheet," senior forward Kurt Weston (Roseau, Minn.) said. "We got down but with this team we never get down on each other and luckily we had a flurry of goals that helped spark us."
In the opening period, the teams played fairly even with the Blugolds leading the shot chart 11-6.
But in the second period, Utica's leading scorer Louis Educate found the back of the net 10 minutes into the period to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.
Eau Claire didn't let the lead stand long as Jordan Singer (Sr.-Lino Lakes, Minn./Centennial) lit the lamp for the Blugolds with an assist from Ross Andersen (So.-River Falls, Wis.) at 13:15. Just 22 seconds later, Andersen found the back of the net for a second Blugold goal, which eventually proved to be the game-winner. He was assisted by Andrew McCabe (Sr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial) and Weston.
The Blugolds added three more goals in the third period, two from Weston, including one which was short-handed, and Andersen scored on an empty net late in the period to give the Blugolds a four-goal lead.
McCabe and Jack Callahan (So.-Red Bank, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) led the Blugolds with two assists each.
A big part of the Blugolds' success tonight was stopping Utica on the power-play.
"Our penalty-killers did a great job," Andersen said. "We took some penalties we probably shouldn't have, but our penalty killers dug us out of those holes."
The Blugolds had eight penalties on the night, creating six power-plays opportunities for the Pioneers. The Blugolds stopped all six, allowing just seven shots.
Utica outshot Eau Claire 32-26 for the game, leading the shot chart in both the second and third periods after Eau Claire led in the first.
Blugold goalie Brandon Stephenson (Sr.-Saline, Mich.) finished the night with 31 saves as he improved to 21-4-2 on the season.
The Blugolds improve to 23-5-2 on the season and move on to face third-ranked Oswego State (N.Y.) in the national championship. The Lakers beat Norwich University (Conn.) 6-3 in the earlier semifinal game Friday.
"(Oswego's) another team we don't know much about," Head Coach Matt Loen said. "We got to see them a little bit today, it's going to be a fun game. We're in uncharted territory here ourselves and they're experienced: been here, done that. And quite a few years for coach Gosek and we're looking forward to a really good game."