EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team entered Saturday's game with No. 6-ranked St. Thomas (Minn.) without allowing a goal in the last 259 minutes and 28 seconds, a streak that included four straight shutouts. With another shutout, the Blugolds would be just the second team at any level to pitch five-straight, a record set by Lake Superior State in 1994. UW-Eau Claire scored a goal in both the first and second period and that was enough as they did hold on for the shutout in a 2-0 win at Hobbs Ice Center.
The shutout streak, which began before the holiday break against Lawrence University on Dec. 14, is now at 319 minutes and 28 seconds. The record is 337 minutes and 22 seconds, set by St. Norbert goalie Kyle Jones in 2006. Interestingly, that streak was set with four-straight shutouts, the previous NCAA Division III record.
With the shutout record hanging in the balance, there was still an important hockey game between the No. 6-ranked Tommies (10-3-2) and No. 8-ranked Blugolds in the USCHO.com poll. The Tommies' goaltending had also been impressive entering the game, so it was of little surprise to see a low-scoring game.
The Blugolds opened the scoring at 16:14 of the first period when Chris Heineman (Jr.-New Boston, Mich./Traverse City Central) beat St. Thomas goalie Drew Fielding five-hole on an assist from Ethan Nauman (So.-Mosinee, Wis./Mosinee). The goal was scored 4-on-4, after a scrum in front of the net led to a minor penalty on St. Thomas and a five-minute major penalty on Daniel Olszewski (Sr.-Janesville, Wis./Craig) for kicking. The penalty also led to a game disqualification for Olszewski.
In the second period, St. Thomas started to take more control after the Blugolds held the advantage in the first period. But at 16:20, Jack Callahan (Jr.-Red Bank, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) gave the Blugolds some insurance on the power-play. Jon Waggoner (Sr.-Fairbanks, Alaska/Lathrop) took the initial shot that was stopped by Fielding, but Callahan put home the rebound from the left side for the 2-0 lead. Preston Hodge (Fr.-Normal, Ill./Oregon) also picked up an assist on the goal.
The second period did see plenty of penalties, as the two teams combined for 12 in the period. At the end of the frame, at the 18:00 minute mark, the Tommies took two penalties, giving the Blugolds a 5-on-3 advantage for one minute, 12 seconds after a previous UW-Eau Claire penalty expired. But the Blugolds could not increase the lead and the period came to an end at 2-0.
In the third, the Blugolds took a penalty for tripping at 14:12. Off the ensuing faceoff, Ross Andersen (Jr.-River Falls, Wis./River Falls) created a turnover at the blue line and raced to the other end on a breakaway. He was hooked though on his way in, and the referee signaled for a penalty shot. Andersen came down and put several moves on the goalie, but Fielding was not fooled and Andersen was stopped by the left leg pad.
Shortly after the penalty shot, the Blugolds were whistled for another tripping penalty at 15:38, giving the Tommies a short 5-on-3. But UW-Eau Claire was able to kill of the penalties and hold on for the win.
Tyler Green (So.-Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville), who had two shutouts in the four-game streak, made 39 saves in what was easily his most impressive game in the streak. He made several key saves for the Blugolds and the shutout gives him his third straight. He has not allowed a goal in 2014 after picking up his first career shutout on Jan. 7 against Augsburg (Minn.).
Jay Deo (Fr.-Langley, B.C./Langley) has also been part of the streak, with two of the five, including the first one that came Dec. 14 at Lawrence University.
The Blugolds had 10 penalties for 31 minutes and St. Thomas had 11 penalties for 22 minutes in a penalty-filled game. Nonetheless, it was still an impressive game between two good teams.
UW-Eau Claire will have a chance to break the shutout record for minutes in the next game. That game will be Friday, Jan. 24 when UW-River Falls, who currently leads the conference at 3-0, comes to town for a WIAC matchup. The Blugolds will have to hold the Falcons off the board for the first 17 minutes, 53 seconds to hold the record. So be sure to head out to Hobbs Ice Center Friday night to see if they can make their way into the record books.