Important match-up for men’s hockey team
February 7, 2008
As many of you know, the UWRF men’s hockey team has been having a hard time recently. The Falcons were been playing good hockey for most of the season, as they were cruising to a 14-2-3 record and sat just two points behind St. Norbert for the NCHA lead. What a difference three games make. Since Jan. 26, the Falcons have lost three in a row.
St. Norbert sputtered a little bit as well, as they’ve been 1-0-2. Not to say that the Falcons’ poor stretch has taken the luster out of the matchup; their standings are still No. 1 and No. 2 in the NCHA, but the Falcons now trail St. Norbert by 6 points. Let’s take a look at the matchup between these teams.
The Falcons have three top-five scorers in the NCHA on their top line. TJ Dahl (6 G, 29 A, 35 P), Derek Hansberry (18-15-33) and Pat Borgestad (21-11-32).
Likewise, the Green Knights have a great top line, as well. They have two scorers in the top 5—Marc Belanger (17-17-34) and Matt Boyd (1-17-33).
While analyzing teams, one should look at the scoring depth. So far this year the Falcons have been more involved in their offense. The additions of Nolan Craner (8-10-18) and Tyler Czuba (13-8-21) have helped with that. The Falcons also hope to get a boost from Wade Harstad this weekend, who has been out since Dec. 1 with a pectoral injury.
The Green Knights have the same number of double digit scorers on their team (eight), but the Falcons have more guys that are capable of putting the puck in the net. ADVANTAGE: FALCONS
The Falcon defense is very talented. They have tremendous depth; however, only six defensemen can play. Coach Steve Freeman has done well with ensuring that they all get adequate playing time.
There will be one advantage for the Falcons, as Jim Jensen will be on the ice after missing the 5-2 loss in De Pere Dec. 8.
The Falcons are talented at defense, but the Green Knights have some great defensemen of their own. Most of the team’s defensive core was wiped out at the end of last season, but the they were fortunate to play most of their games at the Cornerstone, letting their new defensemen to ‘get their feet wet’ in a friendly environment.
Now the Green Knights get to see what they can do in a hostile environment such as… a whiteout? The Falcons experience should overrule the Green Knights’ talent and the Falcon offense will get opportunities during the game. ADVANTAGE: FALCONS
But the question is, can they put the puck past Kyle Jones? Kyle Jones has been a wall for St. Norbert all season long. The Green Knights played Superior last Friday, and while the young defense didn’t play very well, Jones played a sensational game between the pipes. Jones is the NCAA Div. III career leader in shutouts and is finishing his career with an amazing 12-1-3 record and 1.28 Goals Against Average. On the Falcon side, Stephen Ritter has played well since debuting Jan. 4 against Marian, but recently he has given up a lot of long rebounds. In the 5-0 loss to Eau Claire last Saturday night, Ritter looked very sluggish and the Blugolds caught him out of position for easy goals. Ritter will have to be on top of his game tonight and after seeing his New York Giants upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl (Ritter is from New Jersey), that may give him some motivation to pull an upset of his own. However, the nod goes to Jones. ADVANTAGE: GREEN KNIGHTS
The average fan would say that since the Falcons have a 2 to 1 lead in the categories so they should win the game, right? Not really. These two teams are very evenly matched and should be one of the best games of the season at Hunt Arena tonight. If the Falcons can get a win, they will be right in the thick of the NCHA Regular Season title race and have a great note to put on their resume for the NCAA tournament. A fourth straight Falcon loss however, would put this team in a very deep hole that they may not be able to get out of. Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to wear some white tonight.
Chris Schad is a student at UW-River Falls.