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Falcons falter down the stretch against rival Green Knights

February 13, 2007

The River Falls men’s hockey team played a crisp, tight defensive game for 59 minutes at St. Norbert last Friday night. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the game was 60 minutes long.

The Falcons had the lead until St. Norbert’s Matt Boyd fired the puck past Falcon goaltender AJ Bucchino to tie the game 2-2 with 5:40 left in the third. The Falcons called a time-out to regroup, but the Green Knights scored 16 seconds later on Tyler Allen’s first goal of the season. Norbert held on to win the game 3-2.

River Falls continues to be stymied at the Cornerstone Community Center, losing all 11 games played between the teams since St. Norbert moved there during the 2000-2001 season. The Falcons have lost 14 straight on the road against the Green Knights, dating back to the team’s days at the De Pere Ice Arena.

“You can’t have [the losing streak] in the back of your mind,” Falcons forward Tyler Kostiuk said. “You just have to concentrate on what things are going to happen in the game and what you have to do to be successful.”

St. Norbert got on the board early with a goal by Andrew Derton just 3:56 into the first period. It was the first time the Falcons had given up a goal in the opening period since Jan. 6 against Bethel.

The Falcons trailed 1-0 after the first intermission, but Derek Hansberry intercepted a pass in the Green Knights zone and scored an unassisted goal just 57 seconds into the second period to tie the game 1-1.

Not to be outdone, fellow top-liner Pat Borgestad scored 56 seconds into the third period to give the Falcons the 2-1 lead. Borgestad accepted the pass from defenseman Sean Pettinger, slipped the puck around a Green Knight defender, and regained the puck before netting his 11th goal of the season.

But Norbert took control of the game from that point on. The Falcons were out-shot in the final frame 22-6, as the Green Knights scored quick back-to-back goals to take the lead late in the third. The latter proved to be the game winner.

“We didn’t pick up the blocking on the face-off,” Falcon’s Coach Steve Freeman said. “They got to the puck first down there, threw it out to the point, and the kid took the shot.”

It wasn’t a clean shot from the point, but after deflection it ended up in the back of the net.

“He shot a one-timer, but he kind of fanned on it,” Bucchino said. “But the puck still flickered towards the net, still going the right way, and a kid in front of me just hit it out of the air and got it right through my legs. There’s nothing really that me and the defensemen could have done on that.”

The goal was especially demoralizing since it came right after a Falcons time out, which they had hoped would kill the momentum that had suddenly swung to the home team.

“It was definitely frustrating … especially how we took that time-out for the crowd, it was going pretty crazy in there, to settle things down,” Kostiuk added. “But then we just got out of position in the defensive zone and they got a lucky one on us.”

The Falcons were fortunate to hold on to the lead as long as they did. St. Norbert hit the pipe four times in a five-minute span in the middle of the third period.

“We got the lead in the third period and kind of went back on our heels and tried to defend it too much instead of pressing, and that hurt us,” Freeman said.
The Falcons pulled Bucchino with 32 seconds left, but were unable to score with the extra attacker.

Green Knights goaltender Kyle Jones made 20 saves in the game. Bucchino matched that number in the third period alone, on his way to a 32 save night.
The loss to St. Norbert, combined with a Stout win, puts the Falcons three points out of first place in the NCHA. It also moves the Green Knights to within one point of the second place Falcons.

TJ Dahl went into the game needing one point to get his 100th as a Falcon, but did not factor directly into the scoring on either Falcon goal.

The Falcons’ streak of 14 straight losses on the road against St. Norbert is not only the team’s largest road losing streak, but also the only one worth noting. The only other road streak the Falcons are currently on is a one-game losing streak at Superior, where the team lost earlier this season.

“We don’t really think about [the losing streak] that much,” Freeman said. “But to be honest with you, it’s just human nature to kind of have it in the back of your mind.”