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Falcons cut down Foresters in first round

February 22, 2007

Just 13 seconds into the game on Friday night, the Lake Forest Foresters early goal had Falcons fans wondering if they’d be facing the same first-round heartbreak experienced last year. The remaining 1:59:47 in the weekend series against Lake Forest showed that this Falcons team isn’t the same one that barely managed a tie versus the Foresters in January.

The Falcons scored 11 unanswered goals during the weekend, cruising to victories on Friday night, 4-1, and on Saturday night, 7-1. The Falcons were especially stifling on Saturday, out-shooting the Foresters 59-16, including the lopsided shots advantage of 32-3 in a three-goal second period.

“We knew we had to come out with everything this weekend. That’s what our team can do,” Falcons defenseman Jim Jensen said. “We have so many talented players. When we come out guns flaring, we put up points like that.”

On Friday night, Falcons captain TJ Dahl showed everyone why he was named the NCHA Player of the Year. He scored once and added three assists, figuring in on each of the Falcons’ goals. He now stands at 40 assists on the year and is averaging a fraction under two points per game.

The weekend got off to a rough start for the Falcons. The opening face-off was controlled by the Foresters, who quickly moved the puck into the slot in the Falcons zone and team captain Tyler Canal scored on a point-blank shot.

“It’s something you don’t want to give up at the beginning of a game, especially in your own barn,” Falcons forward Dustin Norman said. “But I think the team just settled down and went back to playing hockey the way we always play.”

The Falcons tied the game with a power-play goal at 8:36 in the first period, when Dahl scored on a backhand shot that goaltender Scott Campbell couldn’t knock down.

Pat Borgestad’s power-play goal 50 seconds into the second period proved to be the game-winner.

Derek Hansberry scored his team-leading 21st goal of the year in the second period, and Borgestad netted his second goal of the game in the third.

Saturday night’s game was a lopsided affair. The Falcons looked overmatched against the Foresters, taking the 7-0 lead before giving up a late goal.
UWRF defenseman Jensen scored on a power play 6:34 into the first period to give the Falcons the early advantage.

Mitch Kerns added his sixth goal of the season on a setup by Lance Malark and Jordan McIntyre to put the Falcons up 2-0.

The Falcons were on the power play late in the first period when Norman got the puck at the left face-off circle. He had a little trouble controlling the pass from Jim Henkemeyer. With time winding down, Norman didn’t have enough time to line up the slap shot, so he snapped a wrist shot that got by Campbell with 0.2 seconds left on the clock in the period.

The Falcons led 3-0 after the first and continued their dominance in the second period, adding three more goals to the total. In the period, Lance Malark scored his first goal as a Falcon, and seniors Tyler Kostiuk and Jared Sailer added a goal a piece to put the Falcons up 6-0.

In the third period, Norman scored his second goal of the game to put the Falcons up 7-0.  Mike Kneeland added a goal for the Foresters at the 15:45 mark, but it was much too little and far too late.

“I think the offense all started in the defensive zone, just breaking the puck out and getting it out smoothly and into their zone, overworking their d-men,” Norman said.

The Falcons power play had its second consecutive impressive weekend, going 5 for 15 in the two games against Lake Forest. In the last two series, the Falcons went 9 for 22 on the man advantage, a 41 percent conversion rate.

“Right now, our power play is clicking pretty good,” Falcons head coach Steve Freeman said. “We put up five power-play goals over the weekend. If you can get your power play playing that well, you’re going to create lots of offense.”

The St. Scholastica Saints are up next for the Falcons. The rest of the NHCA tournament is single elimination, so the teams will only play on Saturday, with the winner taking on either Stout or St. Norbert in the finals on March 3. If the Falcons win, they will host the finals. St. Scholastica would have to go on the road because they are the lowest remaining seed. The Saints already have one win to their credit at Hunt Arena this year. On Feb. 3, the Saints beat the Falcons 4-2, handing UWRF one of their only two home losses this season.

“We didn’t play to our usual standards as far as our intensity level in that game,” Freeman said. “We gave up some shaky goals, just little scrambles around the net where we made a couple of mistakes. Our intensity level wasn’t there.”

Even though the Falcons beat the Saints 4-3 in St. Scholastica earlier this year, it was not a very convincing victory. Borgestad scored with 55 seconds left in the third as the Falcons escaped with the victory.

“They basically just outplayed us and outworked us,” Norman said. “It’s going to be a big battle. We’re going to have to come and play as hard as we can.”

The Saints enter this weekend riding high coming off an improbable Saturday in which they beat the UW-Superior Yellowjackets for the first time in 52 games. Trailing 3-0 in the third period, the Saints chipped away at the lead, tying the game with 2:30 left in the period on a goal by Jake Nelson. They got their first lead of the game with 1:23 left in the third on a goal by sophomore Kyle Luschinski. The Saints held on, sending the series to the 20-minute minigame.

“A lot of credit goes to our guys. The attitude on our bench throughout the game was very positive,” St. Scholastica head coach Mark Wick said. “They kept pulling and kept plugging along, and they were able to reap the rewards of that.”

Another miracle awaited the Saints in the minigame. The Yellowjackets got the early lead, scoring just 30 seconds in to grab the 1-0 lead. They held that lead until the final minute of play, when the officials ruled that a Superior player deliberately knocked the goal off its moorings amidst pressure by St. Scholastica. The Saints were awarded a penalty shot, and after a few dekes by freshman Jordan Chong, he went five-hole on Superior goalie Chad Beiswenger to tie the game. In overtime, Saints freshman Aaron Spotts was the God-send, scoring the game-winner and earning the Saints a spot in the semi-finals.

Fortunately for the Falcons, the team has the home ice advantage throughout the NCHA tournament, which could help balance out the momentum that the Saints ride in on.

“We’re only thinking about Scholastica right now,” Jensen said. “It’s good to know we’ve only got to play three solid periods at Hunt Arena in front of our fans, and we can pull it off.”

Coach Freeman said the Falcons may have overlooked the Saints earlier this month, but he expects the team to be prepared for this weekend.
“Right now, they’re not going to sneak up on us,” Freeman said. “We’re very serious, and we’re going to be ready to play.”