Unranked University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire plucked two Top-10 teams in a Thanksgiving showcase, which provided more than a feather in its collective hat.
The darkhorse Blugolds finished the Hackett Builders Thanksgiving Showcase in Adrian at 2-0 while raising their overall record to 5-4.
On Friday, Ross Janecyk scored at 2:15 in overtime to lift UW-Eau Claire to a 4-3 victory over the host, No. 7 Adrian.
The team’s newly-found verve extended into Saturday, when the Blugolds blanked No. 9 SUNY Geneseo, 2-0. Goalie Brandon Stephenson turned away 23 shots for the shutout.
The pair of victories injected a sense of belief into a beleaguered squad that was coming off a two-game sweep by NCHA foe UW-Superior at home.
“We have a young club and, in the past, we have been an inconsistent team,” UW-Eau Claire Coach Matt Loen said. “I feel we can beat any team at any time, but we’ve always struggled with the consistency part. Hopefully, that can give us some confidence and we get back on track with our NCHA (season) now.”
Against Adrian, UW-Eau Claire built a 3-1 advantage on goals by Robbie Anderegg and Ross Janecyk. The Bulldogs stormed back with goals by Eric Miller and Mike Dahlinger 50 seconds aparts to send the contest into OT.
Weston tipped John Kearns’ shot past Bulldogs netminder Brad Fogel for the game-winner.
Tyler Romasco and Jared Williams accounted for the UW-Eau Claire goals in Saturday’s victory over the Knights, who were coming off a 4-2 triumph over No. 5 Hamline on Friday.
The Blugold wins also carried some heft in that they came against the reigning Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association champions in Adrian as well as one of the East Region’s top teams.
“That is kind of motivation for us; we were representing the NCHA when we were out there and we wanted to do well,” Loen said.
Said Adrian Coach Ron Fogarty about UW-Eau Claire, “They are a young exuberant team. They came in as underdogs…Matt (Loen) did a great job in preparing them for the tournament.”
Three players were ejected in Adrian’s 4-1 victory over Hamline in Saturday’s Hackett Builders Showcase finale in an overall effort to crack down on head contact that could lead to concussions.
Shawn Skelly led the Bulldogs with two goals and an assist while netminder Brad Fogal stopped 30 of 31 Pipers shots to earn his sixth win of the season.
The game was somewhat overshadowed by the expulsions of two Adrian players and one from Hamline. Adrian’s Andrew Dovey and Hamline’s Brian Arrigoni were tossed five minutes into the contest after a melee behind the net. Both teams also received offseting major penalties.
In the second period, Adrian’s Mike Towns was ejected after a hit on Hamline’s Alex Contis along the boards. Contis, who fell to the ice, appeared dazed after the hit but remained in the game.
Adrian, which led 2-1, successfully killed the five-minute major. Hamline finished one-for-eight on the power play with Alex Lundbolm netting the Pipers’ lone goal at 4:45 of the second period.
With two minutes left, Hamline’s Zach Johnson was whistled for a fourth contact to the head penalty after blasting an Adrian player into the net. However, refs deemed Johnson’s deed a minor penalty.
“They have to do something I suppose; they are trying to make it a safer game,” Hamline coach Scott Bell said. “It hasn’t been a factor. When they call it in the scrums, I don’t like that call because they are wrestling around and it’s not a dangerous thing.
“When it’s actually physical finishing the check hit in the head, I understand it and like that call.”
Adrian coach Ron Fogarty expressed concern over consistency in such calls. He also shared Bell’s observation that bigger players could be penalized more frequently due to size differences.
“Sometimes, if you go for the puck first and you follow through, but if the guy is bigger, he’s going to get shoulder on helmet,” said Fogarty, whose team finished the game with a season-high 12 penalties for 46 minutes. “Sometimes we’ve seen contact to the head called and sometimes we haven’t seen it called.”
The victory left Adrian at 6-2. The team resumes Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association play when it hosts Concordia on Friday and Saturday. The latter encounter takes place at 9:30 a.m. in the Frozen Faceoff at Michigan Stadium.
In an effort to break the D-III men’s hockey attendance record of 5,600, free toques will be handed out to the first 5,601 fans. The stadium, which is home to football’s University of Michigan Wolverines, seats 109,901.