BLAINE, Minn. (Blugolds.com) – When you are the defending National Champion and currently the top-ranked team in the nation, you are going to get an opposing team's best effort every night. Despite little experience playing with those accolades, the UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team has handled it well so far this season, as they improved to 4-0 after defeating Bethel University (Minn.) 2-1 on the road.
The Blugolds (4-0-0) took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission, but the Royals (0-5-1) were determined to make it a game in the third period. A goal at 2:06, cut the lead in half and Bethel continued to fight until the end against the Blugolds. In the final minutes, they had several quality scoring chances, but Tyler Green (So.-Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) was able to keep them off the board and preserve the win.
Ross Andersen (Jr.-River Falls, Wis./River Falls) started the scoring at 6:02 of the first period on an assist from Joe Krause (Jr.-Hermantown, Minn./Hermantown) and Daniel Olszewski (Sr.-Janesville, Wis./Craig). At 4:54 of the second period, Krause notched a goal of his own, giving the Blugolds a 2-0 lead. Olszewski notched his second assist of the game on the goal.
But in the third period, UW-Eau Claire was unable to pull away, in large part because of a few key saves by the Bethel goaltender. That opened the door for the Royals, who were still searching for their first win of the season. Green and the Blugolds defense stood tall in the end and were able to hold off the Bethel offense with the extra attacker.
Green made 28 saves on 29 shots to pick up his third win in as many starts this season. The Blugolds were outshot 29-26 in the game and 11-8 in the third period. Both teams struggled on the power-play, with the Blugolds finishing 0-for-2 and the Royals 0-for-5.
With the victory, UW-Eau Claire ties the school record for consecutive wins dating back to last season when the streak started on March 6 against St. John's. It is the eighth consecutive victory for the Blugolds.
The win keeps the Blugolds unbeaten as they head into the biggest test of the early season next weekend when they travel to also unbeaten St. Norbert. The Green Knights are 6-0-0 and were ranked No. 2 in the USCHO.com poll released this week. The Blugolds are ranked No. 1, setting up a 1 vs. 2 matchup in De Pere.
One difference this season will be that the teams will meet in a nonconference matchup. With the Blugolds joining the newly formed WIAC hockey conference this year, the Green Knights are now part of the newly formed NCHA. The game is set to start at 7 p.m. at Cornerstone Community Center.