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Women’s hockey team wins first NCHA title in six years

February 19, 2009

For the first time since 2003 the UW-River Falls women’s hockey team captured the NCHA regular season title.

It did so last weekend with two dominating victories against Finlandia University (Mich.) 11-1 and 6-1 in Hancock, Mich.

“It feels great to wrap it up early and not have to worry about it anymore,” Falcon Head Coach Joe Cranston said. “We have come so close in the last few years. We had some tough losses to deal with, so winning it is a great feeling.”

A post-game party consisted of a celebration and a bus ride full of alcohol-free champagne, Cranston said.

“They had that [alcohol-free champagne] with them for after the game,” he said. “They had a lot of fun on the bus ride home.”

With the conference title wrapped up it does not close out the regular season. UWRF has a two game road series against UW-Eau Claire this weekend, prior to the NCHA playoffs, which will be held at Hunt Arena on Feb. 27-March 1.

“We talked about how there is still four points left to get,” Cranston said, referring to the Eau Claire series. “We want to get them and are not satisfied with 27 points to end the season.”

The Falcons went 13-2-1 in the NCHA (15-5-3 overall), which was good enough for the conference title. The last time UWRF won the regular season championship it also won the NCHA playoffs.

With the conference postseason being held in River Falls, Cranston said the home ice advantage is not as big of a factor in hockey compared to other sports.

“Having home ice during the game is not that big,” he said. “I think we have been a better road team of late, but the good thing is you have the No. 1 seed, get to choose your game times and get to stay at home.”

One of the benefits of playing the NCHA’s worst team last weekend was sophomore goalie Cassi Campbell was able to rest her injured knee. Campbell dislocated her patella on Dec. 13 against Eau Claire in the closing seconds of a 5-3 Falcon win.”

“It was important to get her some rest this week,” Cranston said. “Since we won conference I don’t know if she will play again this weekend. It’s important to get her the rest she needs.”

In the conference clincher last Sunday UWRF fell behind early, but Abby Sunderman scored her fourth goal of the weekend in the closing minutes of the first period.

Sunderman and Jamie Briski had hat tricks in the 11-1 thumping the night prior.

Early in the second period Kayleigh Bell scored what was the conference clinching goal. She added a second goal 11 minutes, 32 second later for some insurance.

Freshman Melissa Deardorff started both games in goal and recorded wins in each for her fifth and sixth wins of the season.

Three players put up six points this weekend. Jessica Thompson and Stefanie Schmitz had a goal and 5 assists, and Sunderman scored four goals and had two assists.

The Falcons will be on the road this weekend at Eau Claire for their final two regular season games.