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Falcons’ season ends in ‘Royal’ disappointment

March 8, 2007

Bethel’s Benoit Duhamel scored the go-ahead goal with 9:12 left in the game as the Royals went on to defeat the Falcons 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The loss puts an end to the Falcons season. The Royals will advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament in De Pere, Wis., to take on the St. Norbert Green Knights.

The Falcons started off the game with the early advantage. Joe Adams scored just 4:12 into the game on a shot from the high slot to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead. The goal was Adams’ first point of the year.

After scoring seven goals the last time the teams met, it looked as though the Falcons were headed for another high-scoring game. But that goal would prove to be the team’s last of the season.

Bethel had plenty of opportunities in the first period, outshooting the Falcons 14-7. Yet the score after one period was 1-0 in favor of the Falcons. Bethel wasted no time getting things going in the second period. The Royals first goal of the game came :30 into the period when defenseman Bill Menozzi snapped a shot by Falcons goaltender A.J. Bucchino.

The second period also seemed to favor the Royals offensively, even though Menozzi’s goal was the only one in the period. The Royals outshot the Falcons 11-8 in the period.

In the third period, the Falcons were putting a lot of pressure on Royals goaltender Aaron Damjanovich before the puck was cleared by the Royals. Skating down the left wing, Bethel defenseman John Kovacs took a shot on Bucchino and the rebound kicked out to the right wing to Duhamel. Bucchino tried to slide over and make the save, but there wasn’t much he could do as Duhamel sent it directly into the back of the net.

“We had a great flurry right before they came down and scored,” Falcons head coach Steve Freeman said. “We hit the post and had two or three other really good shots. When you get into that situation, a one-shot hockey game, you have to be able to put those things home. They did and we didn’t.”

Bethel outshot the Falcons 38-30. Bucchino held the Falcons in the game by making 36 saves, but Duhamel played equally as well, tallying 29 saves.

“They played well as a team defensively,” Falcons senior Jared Sailer said. “We had some chances and we just couldn’t bury the puck. Their goalie made a couple of big saves late in the game.”

The Falcons power play, which was key to the late season run, couldn’t convert for the second straight game. The Falcons were 0-4 on the power play, after going 0-5 against St. Scholastica in the previous game. The Falcons lost by one in both games.

Bethel will face the Green Knights Saturday. In the teams’ meeting earlier this season, the Green Knights won 4-2 at home in the Cornerstone Community Center.
For UWRF, the loss is especially disappointing for the two seniors, Tyler Kostiuk and Jared Sailer.

“It was a tough loss, especially because we were so successful against the MIAC teams this year,” Sailer said. “It was too bad our last game had to go out at Hunt Arena.”

Kostiuk and Sailer joined the Falcons as freshmen in 2004 and are the players from that class who stuck with the team for all four years.

“They did a terrific job as far as leadership all year,” Freeman said. “They were very vocal at the end, and I think the team was trying to rally around those guys as much as possible. I know everyone in the program has a great deal of respect for those two seniors.”

The two seniors garnered respect and praise from coaches and players alike.

“They lead in the locker room and led by example out on the ice,” Falcons defenseman Jim Jensen said. “It was great to get an opportunity to play with a couple of guys like that.”

Although their last season ended in a disappointing fashion, the seniors have nothing but fond memories in their stint as Falcons.

“The past four years have been great. There hasn’t been one day that was a downfall for me,” Kostiuk said. “I really enjoyed playing for this team. I played with a bunch of great guys and the atmosphere with the fans on campus was just amazing.”

The Falcons will now direct attention toward next year. With the core of the team returning next season, there is reason to believe that this team will be strong once again.

“I just think we can’t overlook teams next year,” Jensen said. “We’re going to be a good team, but we need to play hard every night.”

With the end of the season, the coaches will soon put this loss behind them and start building for next season.

“We have a lot of talented hockey players coming back,” Freeman said. “Through the recruiting processes, we’ll take a look now at the end of our season and we’ll plug in some players that we need, see where our weaknesses are. We need to take one more step, and we’ll find a way to do that.”