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Opinion

Voice of Falcon hockey has high hopes for season

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October 25, 2007

The Falcons were all set to make another run to the NCAA tournament last year. Despite a loss to St. Scholastica in the NCHA conference semi-final game, there was plenty of optimism that this would be the year the Falcons break through to achieve another one of their goals. After another disappointing loss to Bethel in the NCAA play-in game, the future still looked bright for the Falcons. They would lose only two players from last years team, Jared Sailer and Tyler Kostiuk. Things looked very positive, until we learned that AJ Bucchino had signed a professional hockey contract with an affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks.

With all respect towards Sailer and Kostiuk, the loss of the Falcons’ top goaltender was the biggest loss the team suffered in the off-season. Bucchino was a goalie who was an intense competitor and competed for a spot on the All-America team toward the end of the year.

Bucchino was also an interesting breed of goalie because where most opponents get into the goalie’s head, Bucchino got into the heads of opponents. Most goaltenders who do this don’t usually perform on the ice, but Bucchino was outstanding in net, as he went 21-6-2 with a 2.12 goals against average.

To replace a goaltender like that will be the biggest key to the Falcons marching to Lake Placid this March. One thing the new goaltender will have is that he has his entire defense returning.

Seniors Jim Henkemeyer and Jim Jensen continue to be the rock of the defense. Meanwhile, other role players such as sophomore Sean Pettinger and senior Jason Usher, who missed the second half of the season while studying abroad, provide depth to the defensive pairings.

Some may wonder why I haven’t mentioned the starting goaltender by name yet. That’s because I don’t know. Yes, I am the play-by-play voice for Falcon Hockey, but as of right now the coaching staff has not decided on a single starter. According to earlier reports, the Falcons have elected to go with a “goalie by committee” approach. This could be known as the Russian Roulette approach. The more goalies the Falcons use, the worse off they will be. However, this could also be a plus.

In the past, Freeman’s trademark strategy in net was to use a goalie by committee approach. Remember, two years ago Dan Meneghin and Andy Scanlon were the two goaltenders that Freeman was using on a rotating basis. Then came AJ Bucchino, who took over the goaltending. The Meneghin/Scanlon combo went 17-9-2 in the 2004-05 season and 7-2-0 in the 2005-06 season.

What I’m trying to say is that even though the Falcons lost a great goaltender in AJ Bucchino, it doesn’t derail their chances of being a great team. The Falcons enter the season ranked sixth in the USCHO.com poll, and it would surprise me if the departure of Bucchino leads to a disappointing season. So get out there this Saturday night and wear anything red and show support for what should be a very exciting season of Falcon hockey.

Chris Schad is a student at UW-River Falls.