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Yellowjackets vs. Blugolds for WIAC title

The University of Wisconsin-Superior men’s hockey team has picked the right time to play some of its best hockey of the season.

After struggling through an 8-14-3 regular season, the Yellowjackets have rattled off three straight victories to play UW-Eau Claire in the inaugural WIAC Championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Hobbs Ice Center in Eau Claire.

UWS opened the playoffs with a 6-3 victory over UW-Stout in a play-in game, and then swept UW-River Falls in one semifinal series by scores of 2-1 and 4-0.

“Sweeping River Falls was a lot of fun,” UWS coach Dan Stauber said. “We played well from the goaltender on out; our specials teams did a good job, we had secondary scoring and our big players played big.”

The Yellowjackets’ last sweep was over UW-Stevens Point in the 2010-11 playoffs.

Leading the UWS charge has been goaltender Dayn Belfour, a junior from Morden, Manitoba.

Belfour had a rough start to the season, going 2-6-1 in his first seven games. Since then the son of Hall of Famer Ed Belfour has won five straight games and is slated to get the start again Saturday.

“Dayn’s going to get the start, but Saturday’s game is going to come down to team defense and discipline,” Stauber said. “If you asked our team at Christmas about playing for a conference championship, they probably would have said, ‘We have a lot of work to do, but if we commit to the process we can become conference champions.’”

UWS played UWEC three times this season, tying 2-2 at home on Dec. 7 and losing twice in Eau Claire, 3-0 and 6-2 on Feb. 7-8.

The Blugolds (18-8-1), who were the No. 3 seed for the playoffs, advanced to the championship game after beating No. 2 seed UW-Stevens Point in the semifinals. The Pointers defeated the Blugolds on Friday, but UWEC rallied to win Saturday’s game and then the mini-game that followed.

While Saturday’s winner will capture the WIAC title, it will not guarantee a spot in the NCAA championship as the WIAC does not receive automatic qualification. Selections to the NCAA championship will be announced Sunday night.

“Any time you get a chance to play for a conference championship, it is special,” Stauber said. “With nine seniors, this would be a highlight for the season.”

Superior’s nine seniors include: goaltender Drew Strandberg; forwards Pat Dalbec, Joey Massingham, Marc Fortin, Michael Rey, Brad Phenow and Andy Singerhouse; and defensemen Jeff Forsythe and Derek Stauber.

Saturday’s game may be heard locally on KUWS 91.3 FM.

’JACKET JOTTINGS: UWEC has set aside 250 tickets for UWS fans for Saturday’s game. Fans need to pre-order their tickets and when they do, mention that they are fans from UWS to get tickets in this block. Tickets may be ordered through UWEC athletics by calling 715-836-3727. Tickets for adults will be $8, while tickets for students are $4.

All-conference team

Three Yellowjackets were named WIAC All-Conference.

Senior forwards Dalbec (Superior) and Rey (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and freshman defenseman Eric Shand (San Dimas, Calif.) all were named All-WIAC First Team.

For Dalbec, it is the third consecutive year he has been named to the team.

Dalbec and Rey have been the most consistent offensive performers for the Yellowjackets this season, currently sitting tied atop the team’s scoring chart with 27 points. Dalbec has 12 goals and 15 assists while Rey has a team-best 15 goals and 12 assists.

Dalbec is five points shy of 100 for his career, and Rey has averaged nearly a point per game since joining the Yellowjackets in the second semester of the 2012-13 season.

Senior Derek Stauber (Duluth) was the Yellowjackets’ entrant on the WIAC All-Sportsmanship Team.