EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team jumped out to a 3-1 lead but UW-River Falls scored the final three goals to defeat the Blugolds 4-3 in a WIAC Men's Hockey Tournament Semifinal game here tonight at Hobbs Ice Center.
The Blugolds fall to 17-7-2 overall while the Falcons improve to 19-6-1. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for Eau Claire over River Falls. The Blugolds need to defeat the Falcons tomorrow night and win the following mini-game to win the series to advance to the WIAC Men's Hockey Tournament Finals.
Down 1-0 Eau Claire began its comeback when Ross Andersen (Sr.-River Falls, WI) scored a goal at 7:22 of the first period assisted by Derek Knetter (Jr.-Wausau, WI/West) and RJ Majkozak (Fr.-White Bear Lake, MN) tying the game at 1-1.
The Blugold power play got off to a strong start when Jake Hopfner (Fr.-Eastpointe, MI/Warren Woods Tower) scored his sixth goal of the season at 14:01 of the first period assisted by Brandon Wahlin (So.-White Bear Lake, MN) and Ethan Nauman (Jr.-Mosinee, WI) to take a 2-1 lead.
The Eau Claire power play continued to produce in the second period when Nauman scored at 5:48 of the second period assisted by Wahlin giving the Blugolds a 3-1 lead.
River Falls started its comeback scoring at 19:16 of the second period cutting the Eau Claire lead to 3-2 entering the second intermission. The goal stopped a streak of three-straight Blugold goals.
A Falcon power play goal at 9:29 of the third period tied the game at 3-3. River Falls completed their comeback scoring an unassisted goal at 15:22 taking a 4-3 lead. The Blugolds pulled their goalie on three different occasions in the final two minutes of the game and took a time out with 1:00 remaining in regulation but was unable to score the tying goal as time expired.
Andersen and Nauman both scored their 20th goals of the season while Wahlin tallied his 21st assist of the season with his two-assist performance on the night.
Goalie Jay Deo (So.-Langley, BC) saved 22 shots on the evening playing 59:10. Deo's season record now stands at 8-4-1. It was the most goals allowed by Deo since a 5-2 defeat to UW-Stevens Point on February 14.
Eau Claire outshot River Falls 28-26. The Blugolds received 14 penalty minutes on seven infractions while the Falcons were whistled for five minor infractions totaling 10 minutes. Eau Claire scored goals on two-of-three power play chances while the Falcons scored one goal on six power play opportunities.
Both teams return to Hobbs Ice Center tomorrow night looking to punch their ticket to the WIAC Men's Ice Hockey Tournament Championship. Face-off is set for 7:00 p.m.