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Alaska-native women’s hockey goalie excels with hometown teammate

December 4, 2008

If UW-River Falls freshman goalie, Melissa Deardorff,  drove from her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, it would take her more than two days to make the 3,202 mile trip to the UW-River Falls campus.

For the Falcons and UWRF Head Coach Joe Cranston, they have been miles well traveled, as Dearforff has teamed up with another Anchorage native goaltender, Cassi Campbell, to become one of the best goalie combinations in the NCHA.

Campbell said she was never on the same team as Deardorff, being a year older than her, but said the two talked about being on the same team when they went to college.

“It’s funny because we talked about it all the time, but mostly as a joke,” she said. “Now here we are together on the same team, splitting time, just the way we talked about it earlier.”

Sharing the net is exactly what Campbell and Deardorff are doing now, as opposed to playing against each other like they did in their junior levels.

“It’s nice to know this year we have two goalies that can go anytime,” Cranston said. “Last year we started Campbell 99 percent of the time.”

Last season, Campbell played in all 28 games for the Falcons, starting 27 of them.  She had a 1.74 goals against, a .931 save percentage and compiled a 16-9-2 record.

In her first collegiate game, Deardorff shut out Augsburg College (Minn.) with a 22 save effort and a 7-0 victory for the Falcons.

“I was really excited, but nervous,” Deardorff said. “It was my first college game. After warm ups I was set to go.”

Deardorff said she fell in love with the city and her future teammates after one campus visit to UWRF.

“[River Falls] was a perfect fit for me,” she said. “I met some of the girls on the team and knew this was going to be the school I was going to come to.”

Coming from a smaller town, Deardorff said River Falls feels closer to home, but she also likes having Minneapolis and St. Paul close by if she needs to escape for a while.

“I’m from Alaska, so going from there to a big city would be hard,” she said. “River Falls is perfect, while I still have the opportunity to go to a big city nearby.”

With two games in the books for her, Deardorff has shown she has settled into the college game. A 94.6 save percentage and only two goals allowed is evidence of that.

“The one thing I thought I was going to have to adjust to the most was the speed of the college game,” Deardorff said. “It has not been that hard for me.”

In her high school career, Deardorff played for the Anchorage North Stars and, as mentioned before, never was teammates with Campbell.

“We lived in the same town, knew each other really well and are good friends,” Campbell said. “It is nice to have a friend on your side.”

Campbell gave insight to why Cranston might have two goalies from Alaska on his roster.

“Must have liked what he saw from the first one,” she said with a laugh, referring to her play last season.

One problem Deardorff comes to grips with is she does not see her family as often, especially during the holidays. She has grandparents that live in Hayward, Wis., but it is her parents that she did not see during Thanksgiving, and will only be able to see them for a short time during winter break.

“It’s hard with the travel,” she said. “But most of us teammates will be in town for Thanksgiving, so we will hang out together.”

Through seven games, Deardorff has played in two, allowed two goals and has saved 35 shots. She and Campbell have combined for the NCHA second best goals against per game at 1.5 goals a game and both rank in the top five in conference in goals against.

“We just got to keep on playing well,” Deardorff said.