EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The fifth-ranked UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team needed just one win in its final three games to earn at least a share of the NCHA title, and the Blugolds got that win tonight, defeating UW-River Falls 3-2 at Hobbs Ice Center.
With the win, the Blugolds earned their first conference title in school history. Eau Claire needs just a win or a tie in one of its final two games to win the title outright as St. Norbert College still has a chance to share the crown.
Additionally, the Blugolds earned the No. 1 seed in the NCHA's Peters Cup Playoffs, which includes a first round bye (Feb. 15-16). Eau Claire will host a semifinal match on Feb. 23 and, with a win that night, would host the championship March 2.
In tonight's game, the Blugolds jumped out to a 2-0 lead after Jordan Singer (Sr.-Lino Lakes, Minn./Centennial) scored the first goal in the first period, and Mark Pustin (Jr.-Northridge, Calif./Granada Hills) followed with a goal early in the second. But River Falls tied the game up at 2-2 by the end of the second period.
In the final period, Singer again found the back of the net at 5:42 for his 16th goal of the season and the Blugolds hung on for the win.
The Blugolds outshot the Falcons 42-28 and Brandon Stephenson (Sr.-Saline, Mich.) earned the win, playing the entire game and stopping 26 shots. He improved to 16-2-2 on the season, breaking a school record for most wins in a season. The previous record was 15, set by Tom Johnson during the 1982-83 season. He also increased his career wins mark to 42 which is also a school record.
Eau Claire improves to 18-3-2 on the season, currently on a six-game winning streak, and 13-2-1 in the NCHA. The 18 wins tie a school record for most victories in a season (also achieved in 1989-90). River Falls drops to 11-9-3 overall and 4-9-3 in the conference.
Next Friday, the Blugolds will be home again to face the College of St. Scholastica (Minn.). Action will get underway at 7 p.m. at Hobbs Ice Center. They will close the regular season Saturday at UW-Superior.