Wisconsin Stevens-Point captain Tyler Krueger has always been a defensive guy on the ice.
And when we say always, we mean always.
“I’ve played defense ever since Pee Wee hockey,” Krueger said. “I never was much of a goal scorer.”
Krueger has certainly thrived on defense and has helped play a pivotal role in the nationally-ranked Pointers’ success this season.
Stevens Point is ranked third in the nation and 15-2-2 on the year, including a 3-2-1 mark in the WIAC.
“We know our role as defensemen really isn’t to score – we have enough talented players on this team who can do that,” Krueger said. “I’m just trying to make an impact any way I can on defense and be on the plus side of things. Things have gone well for me this year.”
Krueger played in 21 games last season and finished with one goal and five assists. The Pointers were plus-19 with him on the ice. They are plus-18 this year and Krueger has dished out five assists.
He said the biggest difference this season for Stevens Point is the commitment the players have shown to being at their best in all aspects of the game.
“We knew coming in that we had the talent to be a very good team, but we asked coach [Chris Brooks] before the season what we needed to do to be successful and he talked about commitment on the ice, off the ice and in the classroom,” Krueger said. “Everyone has bought into that and that has helped us to be consistent every day, not just on game days.”
For Krueger, playing at Stevens Point has been extra special as he is from the town. He was a three-time letter-winner in high school and played on a team that made back-to-back appearances in the state tournament.
“It’s been great playing here,” Krueger said. “My family has been able to come to almost every game and it’s just been a great experience playing where I grew up.”
Before coming to Stevens Point, though, Krueger spent time playing junior hockey in Texas and Alaska. Getting a chance to play in Alaska is something he is thankful he had a chance to do during his career.
“I saw both ends of the spectrum playing in Texas and Alaska,” Krueger said. “Alaska was a neat place. It was an experience of a lifetime and I’d love to go back there some time.”
This season has been quite an experience as well as the Pointers have established themselves as legit national title contenders.
Krueger said consistency is the key to success down the stretch.
“We’ve shown that when we play consistent and are at our best, we are one of the toughest teams in the country, but when we aren’t consistent, we’re average,” said Krueger. “We have to make sure we bring our best effort every game. If we do, things will work out.”
Clutch Play: Pat Dalbec scored a game-winning goal with 14.6 seconds left in overtime to lift Wisconsin-Superior to a 2-1 win over Wisconsin-River Falls on Saturday and give the Yellow Jackets a split in the weekend series.
The goal was Dalbec’s ninth of the year and put the Yellow Jackets in fourth place in the conference standings.
Michael Rey and Jeff Forsythe both assisted on the goal. Forsythe now has a point in four consecutive games.
Dayn Belfour stepped up in goal as he made 32 saves and improved to 3-5-1 on the year. Scott Lewan stopped 32 shots for the Falcons and 70 total on the weekend. He is 8-4-0 on the year.
Superior improved to 7-11-3 overall and 2-4-2 in the conference.
Clean Sweep: Defending national champion Wisconsin-Eau Claire capped off a weekend sweep of Wisconsin-Stout with a 3-1 win on Saturday.
The Blugolds have now won five consecutive games against the Blue Devils and have won nine of their last 10 games to push their record to 14-4-1 overall and to 3-2-1 in the WIAC.
Eau Claire scored twice on the power play on goals by David Donnellan and Niko Kapetanovic. Patrick Moore scored the other goal for the Blugolds.
Tyler Green earned the win in goal as he racked up 32 saves. The Blue Devils outshot the Blugolds 33-28 and Jordan Tredinnick scored the only goal for Stout.