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Falcon hockey returns to the ice

October 25, 2007

A new chapter in the history of UW-River Falls men’s hockey will begin Saturday as the team takes on Northland College for the first time in school history.

Senior captain TJ Dahl said the Falcons don’t know much about their opponent for this weekend, but they don’t plan on preparing for the Lumberjacks in any different way.

Following last season’s 21-6-2 record, the Falcons are looking to contend for a National Championship this season. The Falcons fell short of that goal last year, following a 2-1 loss to Bethel in the first round of the NCAA. 

Dahl was recently named captain along with seniors Jim Henkemeyer and Jason Usher, and junior Derek Hansberry, who are this season’s assistant captains.

“I think it’s a good group of four guys,” Hekemeyer said. “Dahl was captain as a junior and was much deserving. We’ve all been around for awhile.”

While the Falcons have only been in practice for a few weeks, it’s not something that the team sees as a problem going into the opening weekend.

The Falcons held an intra-squad scrimmage Oct. 18 as one of the final tune-ups before the season began. The scrimmage is used to get players used to being in game-day like situations again.
About 75 fans attended the scrimmage.

The Falcons lost a handful of players from last year, including forwards Jared Sailer and Tyler Kostiuk, defenseman Chris Robinson, and goaltenders AJ Bucchino and Tony Stoehr.

Bucchino’s position as starting goaltender may prove to be one of the most difficult to fill early on in the season. He played in 29 games for the Falcons last season and finished with a 2.12 goals against average and a .933 saves percentage.

There were three goalies listed on the online roster on the Falcon hockey Web page. They include sophomores Matt Page and Tyler Owens, and freshman Clark Oliver.

“If one of the goalies gets hot, we’re going to pick him up and run with him,” Dahl said. “Any one of them is capable of it.”

The Falcons were picked to finish second in a NCHA pre-season coaches’ poll behind St. Norbert. However, in a poll of Div. III men’s hockey, UWRF was one of four NCHA teams picked in the top 15 in the country.

The Falcons were ranked sixth, following Oswego, St. Norbert, Middlebury, Manhattanville and Norwich.

“That’s fine. It’s nice to be in the middle. It’s a good spot,” Dahl said. “We can hopefully come out against a couple of MIAC teams and slowly inch our way up, with no bells and whistles. We don’t want to have the target on our backs.”

Every year, the NCAA looks to improve the game by adding various rules, and is again trying to crack down on obstruction penalties, including hooking and tripping.

While Hansberry said he is not terribly familiar with the rule changes, he said he believes the rules will help him out since he is a faster player.

Hansberry had nothing but praise for his Falcon teammates and said that team unity will be a strength this season.

“I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “We’re a tight-knit, cohesive unit.”

Although the team has only been on the ice with the coaching staff for a couple of weeks, players are still confident going into the weekend.

“We’ve had a couple of really good weeks of practice,” Henkemeyer said. “It will be nice to only play one game [this weekend] to try and get all the kinks out.”

The Falcons return their top four leading scorers in Dahl (scoring 12 goals, earning 40 assists), Hansberry (21 goals, 14 assists), Pat Borgestad (16 goals, 13 assists) and Henkemeyer (8 goals, 14 assists).

The Falcons only play one game this weekend — against Northland College. They will also be at home Nov. 2-3 for games against Augsburg and Hamline. The puck is set to drop at 7:05 p.m. at Hunt Arena.