UW-Eau Claire men’s hockey coach Matt Loen said there was a bit of a bad taste in the team’s mouth after the Blugolds’ upset loss to Finlandia on Saturday.
Thankfully for the 11-year UWEC coach, his squad didn’t have a full week to dwell on it and after Wednesday’s performance, it’s way in the back mirror.
Eight Blugold players made a mark on the scoresheet as No. 7 Eau Claire earned a convincing 5-1 victory against arch rival UW-Stout in its WIAC opener at Hobbs Municipal Ice Center.
“They’re our biggest rival in the WIAC,” Eau Claire forward Nathan Dingmann said. “Losses to them usually end up getting back to us at the end of the season. That’s a big win for us, to be able to put up five goals after a loss this weekend.”
Eau Claire’s Lucas Kohls, who leads the team with six goals and is tied for the team lead with 12 points, opened the scoring seven minutes into the game. He deked out his defender while charging down the right wing, getting his forehand shot free for a laser to the top left corner of the net.
“We had good net pressure and I just used all the bodies in front of me as a screen and just shot,” Kohls said.
The Blugolds (10-2) took control of the action in the latter half of the second, eventually extending the lead with 3:54 left in the frame on a shot from defenseman Adam Parsells on the power play. The sophomore blue-liner corralled a pass from Steen Cooper at the top of the left circle and fired a wrister that deflected off the shoulder of Stout goalie Tommi Ahlgren and into the top left corner of the net.
Eau Claire took two penalties in the first four minutes of the second period and Stout took advantage of the second infraction to score its only goal of the evening. Defenseman Alex Bowe took a shot from the top which appeared to be deflected by Logan Nelson, but Bowe was credited with his second of the season 3:24 into the middle frame.
Blugolds forward Jon Richards reclaimed the two-goal advantage for UWEC about seven minutes later. Jake Bresser skated around the back of the net and found Richards sitting on the doorstep for a point-black shot.
Eau Claire had little trouble closing out the game, not allowing a shot on goal to Stout until 13 minutes into the third. The Blugolds got two insurance tallies in the frame, with the first coming from Murphy 7:59 into the period. Johnny Mueller took a shot from the point that hit the crossbar and bounced right down to the goal line. Murphy crashed the net and tipped the puck in.
Dingmann closed out the scoring, redirecting a Mueller shot from the right wing in the final four minutes of action.
“We had good shifts where we cycled the puck and had a lot of puck possession,” Loen said of the final 20 minutes. “When we have the puck, they’re not shooting at our goalie.”
Zac Dyment made 26 saves in net for the Blugolds, while Ahlgren stopped 27 shots for Stout.
Wednesday night’s matchup was the first time Eau Claire and Stout have met since the Blugolds eliminated the Blue Devils in the WIAC semifinal minigame. Stout is much improved from last season, as it entered Hobbs off to the school’s best start since 2007-08, but even the 7-16-3 2017-18 Blue Devils gave Loen’s squad troubles last year.
“They’ve been playing us really hard the past four years,” Kohls said. “We never take them lightly.”
Stout (6-3) is next in action on Friday at UW-Superior, while Eau Claire will head west to face UW-River Falls on Saturday.