EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – With the sixth-ranked UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team and second-ranked St. Norbert College Green Knights tied for first place in the NCHA coming into tonight's game, the Blugolds came away with the win, defeating St. Norbert 3-0 at the Hobbs Ice Center.
The Blugolds scored goals in each period to shutout St. Norbert for just the second time in school history. The first time was January 27, 1994, at 5-0 victory. This is also the first time since the 1994-95 season, and second time in school history, the Blugolds didn't lose to the Green Knights in the regular season. Earlier this season in November, Eau Claire won 5-3 while the teams tied 3-3 in overtime at St. Norbert.
Devin Mantha (Sr.-Sturgeon Falls, Ontario/Ann Arbor Pioneer) got the Blugolds on the board at 15:08 in the first period with an assist from Isaiah Bennis (Sr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial). The goal eventually proved to be the game-winner. The Blugolds outshot St. Norbert 16-8 in the opening period, though it was the only period the Blugolds had with more shots.
Just 45 seconds into the second period, Jordan Singer (Sr.-Lino Lakes, Minn./Centennial) scored his 13th goal of the season to put the Blugolds up 2-0. Chris Heineman (So.-New Boston, Mich./Traverse City Central) assisted on the goal. In the second, St. Norbert outshot the Blugolds 13-9.
In the final period, St. Norbert pulled their goalie late to bring on an extra attacker and the Blugolds capitalized with an empty-net goal by Kurt Weston (Sr.-Roseau, Minn.) with 1:10 remaining. Andrew Wilcox (Sr.-Rochester, Minn./Century) and Daniel Olszewski (Jr.-Janesville, Wis./Craig) assisted on the goal. The Green Knights led that period 19-6 on the shot chart.
For the game, St. Norbert outshot the Blugolds 40-31 but Brandon Stephenson (Sr.-Saline, Mich.) stopped all 40 shots to improve to 13-2-2 on the season. His 13 wins ties for second most in a season in school history while he now has 39 in his career, just one away from the Blugolds' all-time career record (Tom Johnson holds record with 40 wins from 1980 to 1984).
Tonight's win was the Blugolds' first shutout of the season. It was also the first time St. Norbert was shut out since Feb. 3, 2012 (0-0 tie vs. UW-Superior).
Eau Claire moves into first place in the NCHA with 21 points as the Blugolds now hold a 10-2-1 conference record. The 10 conference victories are the most the Blugolds have achieved since the 1989-90 season when they went 15-8-1. They have only reached 10 of more conference wins three times, including this year. Overall, Eau Claire is now 15-3-2. St. Norbert drops to 15-4-1 on the season and 9-3-1 in NCHA play.
Tomorrow the Blugolds will be on the road at UW-Stevens Point. Earlier in the season, the Blugolds and Pointers split with Eau Claire winning the first meeting 5-2 on Nov. 30 while the Pointers won 4-3 on Dec. 1. Action will get underway at 7 p.m.