By Nick Hoven, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugold.com) - The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire women's hockey team hosted another regional opponent from a year ago on Saturday. The Gutavus Adolphus Gusties came to town with both teams remembering the triple-overtime thriller last season in the NCAA Regional Tournament. With both teams playing to their own aggressive strengths and a five-minute overtime included, neither team would find the edge as the game would end in a 2-2 tie.
The Blugolds would be facing an All-American goalie in net for Gustavus and the strategy from the get-go would be to shoot and shoot often. Eau Claire would record 53 total shots on goal while only allowing 21. After a loose rebound found its way past Eau Claire goalie Erin Connolly (Jr. – Mequon, WI/Homestead), the Blugolds would find themselves down by one after the first 20 minutes of play.
With a rally cry from the locker room and a spark in their offense, Eau Claire would eventually tie it in the second. The captain and senior forward for the Blugolds, Kelly Knetter (Wausau, WI/West), would answer the call for Eau Claire as Knetter would find an opening past the Gustie All-American to tie the game at one. Emma Peterson (So. – Superior, WI) and Monica Sjodin (Sr. Anoka, MN) would get credit with the assists after a great faceoff won by Hanna Zavoral (So. – St. Paul, MN/Highland Park) in the defensive zone.
After the game, Head Coach Erik Strand held high praise for the senior leader.
"Knetter is a special player because she has a tremendous passion for the game and her engine never shuts off," said Strand. "Her goal was designed off of a faceoff play and her buy-in was a perfect example of what happens when our players apply their talent within our system. I was very happy she was rewarded with that goal!"
The Gusties would get the last say in the second, as they capitalized on a powerplay attempt with just 25 seconds remaining.
In the third, it was all Eau Claire and the Blugolds hit the ice with some definite "pep in their step." After two early penalties on Gustavus, the red-hot UWEC powerplay would light the lamp for the 11th time this season.
After receiving a pass from Elizabeth Bauer (Jr. – Wausau, WI/East) down low, Courtney Wittig (Sr. – Green Bay, WI/Bay Port) would use the space in front of her to make a move toward the middle. That move cause the Gustavus goalie to slide off her post, and Wittig would bury the puck top-shelf to tie the game at two.
Through the 3rd period and overtime, the Blugolds would limit Gustavus to only five total shots, but their own 25 weren't enough to break the tie either.
Connolly saved 19 of the 21 shots she faced and her season record went to 1-1-1. When asked about back to back stellar performances from his goalies, Coach Strand commented that, "it's a luxury to have two solid performances in goal like that. It gives the players a foundation of confidence that they can be aggressive, make mistakes and know someone's back there who has their back."
Eau Claire will take the weekend to rest and gear up before the hit the ice again on November 10th, when they host UW-Superior at 2 p.m. Follow the action on Blugold Game Day or on the 'UWEC Blugolds' app on your mobile device.