WIAC season preview: Wisconsin-Eau Claire will look to fend off Wisconsin-River Falls in the WIAC

Callie Hoff Womens Hockey VS St Thomas_11142017_TS (Tori Lynn Schneider)
Callie Hoff of Wis.-River Falls  VS St Thomas_11142017_TS (Tori Lynn Schneider)

Last season, Wisconsin-River Falls was finally dethroned and a new WIAC champion was named, not to mention that the Falcons’ regular spot to the NCAA tournament was gifted to another team. The teams in this conference are as close as they have ever been in regard to skill and speed. Expect conference games to be intense and close in score.

The Favorite
Although they took a loss to the program with not advancing to the NCAA tournament, expect Wis.-River Falls to be the favorite this season. Junior Kathryn Larson and sophomore Callie Hoff should be expected to have a big year for the Falcons and lead the scoring. During Hoff’s rookie year, she had 20 goals and 17 assists, which landed her USCHO women’s D-III rookie of the year. Hoff will have big shoes to fill for the offense with Carly Moran graduated.

The defense and goalies will need to increase their intensity for the Falcons to claim another title. Defensively, Haley Nielsen and Erica Schramel will be players to watch. With both of these defensemen being a year older, they will be expected to step up and be better than last year.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire is coming off a record year with their WIAC tournament championship and a bid to the NCAA tournament. The Blugolds will need to rely on depth in their roster to continue to have success.

Dark Horse
Beating Wis.-Eau Claire twice and Wis.-River Falls once last year, Wisconsin-Superior is the dark horse of this conference. The Yellow Jackets have a tough schedule this year with playing ranked teams: Hamline, Gustavus, Wis.-Eau Claire, and Wis.-River Falls. This tough schedule should give the players enough experience to create an upset in the WIAC playoffs at the end of the year. Look for veteran players Kaleigh Martinson and Amanda Sergent to lead the way.

USCHO Predicted Order to Finish
1) Wis.-River Falls
2) Wis.-Eau Claire
3) Wis.-Superior
4) Wis.-Stevens Point

Players to Watch
Wis.-River Falls: Callie Hoff — forward; Haley Nielsen — defense
Wis.-Eau Claire: Elizabeth Bauer — forward; Holly Turnbull — defense
Wis.-Superior: Kaleigh Martinson — forward; Amanda Sergent — forward