RIVER FALLS, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire women's hockey team won the program's first O'Brien Cup, defeating UW-River Falls 3-2 in double overtime in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Championship (presented by Culver's) on Saturday afternoon.
In a rematch of last year's title game, the game was eerily similar, heading into overtime after a 2-2 tie in regulation. A year ago, the Falcons earned the 3-2 win but the Blugolds would not be denied in 2018. Needing another overtime, Emma Peterson (Fr. – Superior, WI) found Mariah Czech (Sr. – Andover, MN) who would beat the Falcon goaltender to net the game-winner.
The two squads started slow as neither team could get on the board in the first period, with the Falcons holding a 10-7 lead in shots. But the Blugolds would heat up in the second, outshooting River Falls 9-3 in the second period. Courtney Wittig (Jr. – Green Bay, WI/Bay Port) scored the game's first goal at the 7:47 mark off an assist from Bree Osborne (Fr. – West St. Paul, MN/Cretin Derham Hall). The Falcons would respond with their first goal of the night at 14:09 as the two teams went into the second intermission knotted at 1.
River Falls would strike again less than five minutes into the third, but Elizabeth Bauer (So. – Wausau, WI/East) would tally the equalizer at 7:49. Kelly Knetter (Jr. – Wausau, WI/West) and Wittig would earn assists on Bauer's ninth goal of the season. Despite out-shooting the Falcons 8-4 in the third period, the game would head into overtime.
River Falls would get several chances to score in overtime, but Erin Connolly (So. - Mequon, WI/Homestead) came up with save after save to stifle the Falcons. Connolly would finish with 22 saves as she earned her 17th win of the season.
Czech's game-winner was a historic one for Eau Claire, securing the program's first conference championship and tying the school record for wins in a season (18) which the Blugolds set last season. The Blugolds will now have to wait to see if they will earn an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. The selection show will take place at 9 a.m. on Monday on NCAA.com.