EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- For the first time since winning that national championship back in 2013, the UW-Eau Claire men's hockey team will play in the NCAA tournament.
The NCAA announced their 12-team Division 3 field Monday. The Blugolds after knocking off UW-Stevens Point in the WIAC tournament final 4-2 on Saturday were given a first round bye and will play the winner of the first round match-up between St. Thomas and Lake Forest on Saturday, March 21st at Hobbs Ice Arena.
Blugolds head coach Matt Loen says he's thrilled his team was able to end their post-season drought, "It's exciting for our four-year seniors, we've been talking about getting an NCAA bid, what we got to do, where we got to be and what games we have to win and just to be so close for them the last three years and now finally coming into fruition their senior year, I'm just so excited for those guys."
Meanwhile, the UW-Eau Claire women's hockey team also received an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. The Blugolds won the WIAC regular season title but lost 2-1 in overtime to UW-River Falls in Saturday's conference tournament final.
Coach Erik Strand's team will host a second round game this Saturday, March 14th at Hobbs Ice Arena against the winner of Wednesday's first round game between River Falls and Gustavus Adolphus. Now in it's 20th season, the Blugolds women's program continues to reach new heights.
Strand says, "Think about what that means for this game, for this community too with women's hockey in the area and the success that it's had and trying to grow it at that youth level. It's just a tremendous opportunity to play in front of hopefully future Blugolds and in the worst case scenario in front of a group that hopefully will grow the game."
Blugolds Senior Forward Elizabeth Bauer adds, "Obviously that's in the back of everybody's minds trying to get to the next weekend and being able to go to the Frozen Four. So the focus this week is going to be on what we have to do the next 60 minutes to have success and then we'll take if from there."