EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – There is a reason that UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout are called I-94 rivals. Anytime the two teams get together in any sport, it is more than likely going to be an entertaining matchup, particularly the men's hockey teams. With the snow coming down heavily outside, undoubtedly affecting what would usually be a large crowd, it was UW-Stout that came out on top with a 3-2 win over UW-Eau Claire Thursday night at Hobbs Ice Center.
Coming into the game, the Blugolds (16-7-1, 5-5-1) were trying to earn the No. 2 seed and pick up a home series for the WIAC tournament next weekend. With UW-River Falls defeating UW-Stevens Point in another conference matchup in Stevens Point, that opportunity was still alive.
The first period was rather uneventful as neither team scored and there were just three penalties. But the action started to pick up in the second period.
With David Donnellan (Sr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial) off for a slashing penalty, the Blue Devils (8-16-0, 4-7-0) struck first at 7:02 of the second period for the 1-0 lead. But it did not take the Blugolds long to answer.
Just one minute, 52 seconds later, Joe Krause (Jr.-Hermantown, Minn./Hermantown) buried a rebound off a shot from the point by Donnellan. Charles Thauwald (So.-Rochester, Minn./Mayo) also picked up an assist on the goal. The period ended with the teams tied 1-1, but as the buzzer sounded to end the period, there were some extracurricular activities.
After a long discussion by the officials, the Blugolds received a two-minute minor penalty, but with already two players in the box, they would have three in there to start the third period. The Blue Devils received a five-minute major for excessive roughing and a game misconduct for grasping the face mask. They also already had a player in the box, so the teams began the third period with a little 3-on-3 action.
The earlier coincidental penalties expired early into the third period, so with the teams now at 4-on-4, it was the Blue Devils that struck again, just 1:34 into the period. With all the penalties finally expired and the teams back to 5-on-5, UW-Stout struck again at the 5:23 mark take the two-goal lead.
The Blugolds continued to pepper UW-Stout goaltender Corey Koop in the third period, but the Blue Devils were able to maintain the 3-1 lead. In desperation mode, the Blugolds pulled goaltender Tyler Green (So.-Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) at the 18:28 mark, and just three seconds later, Jack Callahan (Jr.-Red Bank, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) got one past Koop on a nice low shot from the blue line to make it a 3-2 game.
With 1:24 left in the game, the Blugolds got Green off again for the extra attacker and applied the pressure. There were several quality chances, but they couldn't find the back of the net. The Blue Devils took their timeout with about 40 seconds left and the Blugolds set up a few more quality chances, but once again Koop was up to the task.
The Blugolds then called their timeout to set up a play with about 30 seconds left, and they kept the pressure on and got a final quality chance with 3 seconds left but it was to no avail and the Blue Devils held on for the 3-2 win.
The Blugolds outshot the Blue Devils 53-28, including 27-6 in the third, but it was UW-Stout that took advantage of their limited opportunities. Green finished with 25 saves on 28 shots in goal for UW-Eau Claire.
Both teams were whistled for six penalties and the Blue Devils were the only team to break through with the man-advantage, finishing 1-for-5.
With the loss, the Blugolds will now be the No. 3 seed in the upcoming WIAC tournament. With UW-River Falls defeating UW-Stevens Point, the Falcons will be the No. 1 seed and the Pointers will be the No. 2 seed and host the Blugolds on Friday, Feb. 28. The winner of the tournament will be crowned the first WIAC champion this season.
The Blugolds have one final game remaining in the regular season and that is scheduled for this Saturday in River Falls. The game is set to start at 7 p.m.