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Thursday, December 18, 2014

UWRF women’s hockey makes team history

Published March 28th, 2014

The UW-River Falls women’s hockey players embrace at the NCAA Division III tournament.

The UW-River Falls women’s hockey players embrace at the NCAA Division III tournament. (Kathy M. Helgeson/University Communications)

The UW-River Falls Falcons women’s hockey team made team history Saturday night by beating the University of St. Thomas 5-3 to win third place at the NCAA tournament.

“This was an awesome experience, it always is,” Head Coach Joe Cranston said. “To play the way we did and to score five goals against one of the best goalies in the country is great. Third place is the best we’ve ever done and we are very proud of that.”

The final game of the 2013-2014 season capped off a great year for UWRF. They went 23-5-3 overall on the season, won their first-ever NCAA Frozen Four game, will lose three seniors that are leaving as the top three scorers in school history and had the first-ever player make the All-Tournament team at the Frozen Four in team history.

UWRF had previously been to two other NCAA Frozen Fours but had never won a game there until Saturday. Brook Story had two assists in the weekend to move into third place all-time in Falcon scoring history tying with Jessica Thompson with 99 points. Katie Batters finishes second all-time in scoring with 112 points and Kait Mason finished as the all-time leading scorer with 131 points in her career. Both Mason and Batters leave as the top goal scorers in team history as well.

Cranston said he had predicted the three seniors would leave as the top three scorers in team history after their first ever game freshmen season.

Ashley Kuechle finishes her Falcon career as goalie after a great season. She went 18-3-3 and tied the all-time single season shutout record with seven this year.

The play of the seniors can be attributed to the success UWRF had this season but there were many other factors. It could be attributed to the whole team buying into Head Coach Joe Cranston’s system.

It could also be attributed to the fact that Assistant Coach Jim Walsh has worked hard to get recruits in every year and has had a hand in every single player that was on this year’s team. It could also be due to the fact that the seven freshmen grew up really fast and learned how to contribute at the collegiate level right away.

While all these factors are reasons for UWRF’s success this season, Batters mentioned a reason that is often forgotten at this high of a level in sports.

“The thing about our senior class is that we have been having fun since our freshman season. Our class is good at getting everyone motivated and having fun,” Batters said.

The Falcons also got big play from sophomore forward Chloe Kinsel all season long. She finished the season with a team high 33 points and was the first ever UWRF women’s hockey player to be named to the six-member NCAA All-Tournament team.

“I have big shoes to fill with the seniors leaving,” Kinsel said. “This experience has been amazing and finishing third makes it even better.”

Kinsel was contributed to four of the Falcons seven goals in the Frozen Four.

She will have plenty of help with filling the senior’s shoes as the team returns its whole entire defense next year and another top scorer on the team in Alice Cranston. Gillian McDonald and Meaghan Wenner will look to fill in the void at goalie with Kuechle gone.

This year will be one to remember for not only the women’s hockey team but for the whole athletics program and UWRF campus. The third place is the best finish in all of athletics since the 2008 women’s outdoor track and field won the national championship.

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