EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team defeated UW-River Falls 4-2 but lost a minigame 2-1 and a chance to advance to the WIAC Men's Ice Hockey Tournament Championship here tonight at Hobbs Ice Center.
The Blugolds improved their overall season record to 18-7-2 while the Falcons fell to 19-7-1 but it was the Falcons who advance as a result of their 2-1 minigame victory. Eau Claire has defeated River Falls in 11 of their last 14 meetings including a 5-2 record at Hobbs Ice Center over that stretch.
It was a long night for both teams as over 92 minutes of action was played at the conclusion of the minigame.
The win gave the Blugolds their third-highest single season win total in school history tying the 1989-90 team. The Blugolds have posted their fifth-straight winning season, the most in school history.
Eau Claire struck early and often in the first period. T.J. Stuntz (Fr.-Austin, TX/Round Rock) scored the game's first goal at 3:25 assisted by Jack Callahan (Sr.-Red Bank, NJ/Christian Brothers Academy) and Colton Wolter (Fr.-Fairbanks, AK/Lathrop) taking a 1-0 lead.
Brandon Wahlin (So.-White Bear Lake, MN) added a power play goal at 9:24 of the first period assisted by Jeff Pauluk (Jr.-Bloomington, MN/Jefferson) and Jake Davidson (Fr.-Duluth, MN/Shattuck St. Mary's) extending the Blugold lead to 2-0.
River Falls scored goals at 13:33 of the first period and 10:39 of the second period tying the game at 2-2 but Eau Claire answered in the third period when Stuntz scored the game-winning goal unassisted at 5:22 giving the Blugolds a 3-2 lead.
Goalie Jay Deo (So.-Langley, BC) saved 31 shots in 59:36 of action improving his season record to 9-4-1.
The Blugolds outshot the Falcons 48-33. Eau Claire served 10 penalty minutes on five minor infractions while River Falls was whistled for four minor infractions for a total of eight penalty minutes. The Blugolds were one-for-three on power play opportunities while the Falcons went scoreless on four power play chances.
The Eau Claire victory forced the series into a minigame. A minigame is used to break a tie and determine the advancing team in a two-game series. The 20-minute period is to be treated as another game with the exception that it is not counted statistically or in a team's overall won-loss record. If the score remains tied after the minigame, the tie will be broken by 20-minute, sudden death periods.
Ross Andersen (Sr.-River Falls, WI) scored the first goal of the minigame at 1:47 giving Eau Claire a 1-0 lead. River Falls scored their first goal at 5:01 tying the game at 1-1. The minigame would continue with a 20 minute sudden death format to be installed.
More than 12 minutes into the second period a penalty shot was awarded to River Falls after a large pile-up of bodies took place in front of the Eau Claire net. Taylor Burden of River Falls was able to get the puck past Deo for the eventual winning goal at 12:53 giving the Falcons a 2-1 minigame victory.
Eau Claire was outshot by River Falls 20-16 in the minigame. Eau Claire was whistled for two minor infractions while River Falls was called for no penalties in 32:53 of minigame action.
The evening marked the final home game for seniors Andersen, Callahan and Charles Thauwald (Sr.-Rochester, MN/Mayo).