By Nick Hoven, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) - The No. 9 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire women's hockey team held their home opener on Saturday as they took on the No. 4 Hamline Pipers, a rematch of last season's NCAA Second Round game. Before puck drop, the Blugolds unveiled their 2018 WIAC (Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) Championship banner, their first in program history. The Blugolds looked to continue their success from last season in their first game but fell short to the Pipers, 5-4.
With a total of 16 minutes on 8 penalties, the penalty kill struggled early for Eau Claire. The Blugolds found themselves with their backs against the wall allowing four straight powerplay goals to Hamline in the high-intensity game. Eau Claire would bounce back in the second period recording 23 shots on goal, but the Hamline goalie stood tall and wouldn't allow anything to pass.
The second intermission held quite the rally cry in the Eau Claire locker room. The Blugolds came out firing in the third, recording a period total of 19 shots and took advantage of numerous Piper penalties. Just over halfway through the period, the Blugolds would score their first goal of the season.
Sami Meister (Jr. – Plymouth, MN/Wayzata) would find herself with the puck at the point and wristed the shot past the Piper goalie. This would be the first of three powerplay goals for the Blugolds. Hanna Zavoral (So. – St. Paul, MN/Highland Park) would get credit for the next powerplay goal and added her second moments later as she weaved around the Hamline defense on her own. With just 58 seconds remaining and the Blugolds taking control of a five on three player advantage, Holly Turnbull (Sr. – Hayward, WI) took a slapshot from the side wall and beat the goalie over the glove to tie the game. Turnbull and Zavoral would finish with three points each.
The Pipers answered just seconds later shorthanded to seal the game.
Erin Connolly (Jr. – Mequon, WI/Homestead) saved 30 of the 35 shots she faced and starts the year with a 0-1-0 record.
The Blugolds are back in action on Sunday, October 27 as they will travel to Marian College for their first road game of the year. Follow the action on Blugold Game Day or on the 'UWEC Blugolds' app on your mobile device.