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UWRF, CSS clash in rematch

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February 21, 2008

The UW-River Falls Falcons men’s hockey team has had a successful season so far. Last Friday night, the Falcons defeated the Stout Blue Devils 5-3. In that game where the Falcons looked like a completely different team than the one that hosted the St. Norbert Green Knights a week prior. The Falcons were aggressive. They came out and scored three goals within the first seven minutes of the game. Simply put, it appeared that the Falcons wanted it more than the Blue Devils did. With the win, the Falcons clinched the second seed in the NCHA Peters Cup Tournament.

  However, here is the tricky part. The Falcons opponent this weekend is the St. Scholastica Saints.

  On paper, the Saints don’t look like an intimidating team. The Saints come into the playoff series with the seventh seed and a 9-12-4 overall record (4-7-3 in NCHA play). Prior to the start of the season, the Saints actually received a first place vote from St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin.   

  The Saints haven’t really lived up to their billing this season, but they can claim possible momentum coming into the series. The Saints have won three straight games at Hunt Arena.

  The Saints have turned the home ice advantage for the Falcons into their own personal house of horrors. The Saints have gotten the best of the Falcons at every turn inside Hunt Arena the last three meetings and when you take a look at the last three games, the results have been maddening.

  The real dagger in this streak came in the 2007 Peters Cup Tournament semi-finals. Scholastica defeated Superior in a mini-game to set up a match-up in the Falcons favor. The Falcons came out and played a sloppy game, and the Saints got a 2-1 win sending the Falcon fans into disbelief.

  The games have had their patterns as well.. The Saints have found a way to exploit the Falcon defense in all three games. The Saints have gotten 102 shote puck out of the net. Ritter will need to have a similar performance this weekend.

  Another key to the game will be the scoring balance for the Falcons. Coach Steve Freeman made a bold move when he put TJ Dahl to the second line. This could have created a chemistry problem for the Falcons, as Dahl played with Derek Hansberry and Pat Borgestad all this season and last season as well. Instead, the second line has gotten stronger as Dahl has instantly made Tyler Czuba and Nolan Craner even better than they were prior to the switch. Dustin Norman has made an impact with his ability to blast, what we call in the booth, the Slapshot of Death.

  Finally, the Falcons need to tune stuff like this column out. There is a streak for the Saints, but it does not matter when the puck is dropped at 7:05 p.m.

Chris Schad is a student at UW-River Falls.