EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) — It was one of those nights. The UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team did not get a bounce, and College of St. Scholastica (Minn.) goalie, Colin Rundell was a big reason for that.
In front of a standing room-only crowd at Hobbs Ice Center, the Blugolds (18-4-2, 13-3-1 NCHA) failed to clinch sole possession of the NCHA title as the fell to the Saints (11-12-1, 7-9-1 NCHA) 3-0 in the final regular season home game.
The Saints have been rolling lately, going 7-1-1 in the last nine games, including tonight's game. Last weekend, they helped the Blugolds by handing St. Norbert a loss, but in a sort of ironic turn, this weekend the kept the Green Knights alive with the victory over UW-Eau Claire.
The Blugolds controlled play early on, but it was the Saints that got on the board first on a goal from the slot at 4:23 of the first period. Both teams had power-play opportunities, but neither team was able to capitalize on the man-advantage.
With 1:48 to play in the first, the Saints took control of the game with a real momentum swinger. They scored on a scramble in front of the net to go up 2-0 and it looked like that was how the teams would head to the intermission. But with just 25 seconds to play, the Saints struck again for the 3-0 lead.
At 6:12 of the second period, the Blugolds went on a 4-on-3 power-play after the teams took coincidental penalties at 5:51. But once again, they were not able to solve Rundell. The trend continued throughout the rest of the game.
Neither team found the net in the second period. The Blugolds came out and controlled the play for the majority of the third period. But the Blugolds once again were held scoreless, but it certainly was not from a lack of opportunities.
Brandon Stephenson (Sr.-Saline, Mich./Saline) made 34 saves in the game, while Rundell made 50 saves to pick up the shutout for the Saints. The Blugolds were 0-for-2 on the power-play, while the Saints were 0-for-1.
It was not the ideal way for the 10 seniors to go out on senior night at Hobbs Ice Center. Luckily they will have another chance at a win when they host a NCHA semifinal game on Saturday, Feb. 23.
The Blugolds can still clinch sole possession of the NCHA title with a win or tie over UW-Superior Saturday night in Superior. They can also clinch sole possession if St. Norbert falls to UW-Stevens Point Saturday night.
Saturday night, the Blugolds will wrap up the regular season against the Yellowjackets at 7 p.m they will await the results of the NCHA quarterfinals for the Feb. 23 semifinal matchup at Hobbs Ice Center.