Falcons fall in WIAC title game

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UW-Eau Claire's Mariah Czech scored 6 minutes, 10 seconds into the second overtime to lift the Blugolds to a 3-2 victory over UW-River Falls in the WIAC women's hockey O'Brien Cup championship game at Hunt Arena Saturday, March 3.

The loss ended UWRF's streak of nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances while sending Eau Claire to the NCAA Championships for the first time in program history.

After a scoreless first period, the Blugolds struck first when Courtney Wittig found the back of the net 7:47 into the second. The Falcons would get an unassisted goal from Hailey Herdine with just under six minutes remaining in the period to tie the score.

UWRF took a 2-1 lead 4:23 into the third period on a goal by Payton Rudiger, assisted by Kora Torkelson, before Eau Claire's Elizabeth Bauer tied the score, 2-2, with a goal just over three minutes later.

UWRF earned a power play with 1:18 remaining but the Falcons took a penalty of their own with 21 seconds on the clock. The first overtime started with 42 seconds of 4-on-4 hockey but neither team could capitalize until Czech gave Eau Claire the title 6:10 into the second overtime session.

UWRF goalie Tatyana Delaittre finished with 27 saves as the Blugolds outshot the Falcons, 30-24.

UW-Eau Claire received an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament Monday, March 5, while the Falcons were left out of the nine-team field despite winning their fifth straight WIAC regular season championship. UWRF finished the season with a record of 19-6-3 while Eau Claire improved to 18-6-4 and will face Gustavus Adolphus (20-3-4) in the NCAA opening round game Friday, March 9, in St. Peter, Minn.