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Falcon men anticipate playoffs against Saints

February 21, 2008

Playoff atmosphere is in the air once again for the UW-River Falls men’s hockey team.

  On Friday and Saturday night, the Falcons, ranked seventh in the country, take on the visiting St. Scholastica Saints.

  UWRF is entering the series as the second seed in the NCHA, while Scholastica is seventh. 

  The Falcons record currently sits at 16-6-3 and the Saints are 9-12-4.

  However, UWRF knows they can’t take their weekend opponent lightly.

  “They’re a tricky opponent,” UWRF captain TJ Dahl said. “They’re a better team than the ranking shows. We’re just going to have to jump on them early.”

  In the previous two meetings between the teams, each has one victory this season. The Falcons beat the Saints in Duluth 6-3 Nov. 16, while the Saints beat the Falcons at Hunt Arena 4-3 in overtime.

  “They’ll come out hard, but we know we can beat them,” sophomore forward Tyler Czuba said. “We’ll have to stay out of the box.”

  The last time these two teams played each other in the playoffs was in the NCHA semifinals last season when the Saints won 2-1.

  The Falcons have lost to the Saints the last three times they played at Hunt Arena, stretching back to Feb. 3, 2007.

  “Although that may be a daunting statistic for some,” Czuba said. “It’s not a fact that the team is worrying about.”

  The team is focusing on the fact that they are two different teams between this season and last.

  While the Falcons have seven seniors on their team this season, they are still fairly young.

  Dahl added that his young teammates have really stepped up from the beginning of the year until now.

  “They’re so committed,” Dahl said. “It makes a great atmosphere. It makes you want to work harder.”

  Everyone on the team has a common goal.

  “As a senior I really want to bring a league championship back to this program,” Dahl said. “We’ve been so close in the past.”

  In conference play, Dahl leads the league in points with 22, followed closely by Derek Hansberry and James Henkemeyer with 17.

  Scholastica sophomore Jordan Chong is eighth in the league with 14 points. Chong is also tied with teammate AJ Tucker.

  The playoffs are a best of three series, including a mini-game following the Saturday night game if necessary.

  Four members of the UWRF squad have been named to the All-NCHA first team, including Patrick Borgestad, Dahl, Hansberry and Henkemeyer.

  Dahl, Hansberry and Jason Usher were also named to the All-Academic team.

  Both games are set to begin at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Hunt Arena.