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Falcon hockey hits NCHA postseason play

February 24, 2011

The men’s and women’s hockey teams finished their regular seasons last weekend with sound victories, and now prepare for the postseason.

The women’s team enters the postseason with a flawless 20-0-3 overall record, and a 15-0-3 record in the NCHA.

Ranked number one in the nation by uscho.com, the Falcons carry a senior-heavy team into the first round of the NCHA tournament with one thing on their mind according to head coach Joe Cranston: a national championship.

“Our goal all year has been to play at the national level and get to the NCAA tournament,” Cranston said. “I think that we have done everything possible up to this point to give ourselves that chance.”

Coming off of a regional loss last year, a loss that denied the Falcons a birth into the Frozen Four, Cranston said that motivation could not be higher.

“I’m keeping the kids where they need to be,” Cranston said. “I have been working all year on not being distracted and not thinking that we are better than we actually are.”

Cranston stressed that entering the playoffs as the number one team in the nation while boasting an undefeated record at the same time will not distract the team from their goal.

“We are not going to be distracted by any of that stuff,” Cranston said. “Not a chance.”

Senior captain Jessica Thompson said that, distractions aside, the team still thinks about the disappointing end to a successful 2010 season.

“We feel a pressure on our shoulders, not doubt about it,” Thompson said. “But at the same time, we are doing our best to ignore all of the hype and just take each game as it comes.”

Thompson added that an extra motivation factor comes into play when she thinks about her career at UW-River Falls.

“Being that it is my last season as a senior, it would be amazing to end it on a high note,” Thompson said. “Hopefully we can pull something out here, we really think we can.”

The men’s team finished the regular season with a record of 11-12-2 overall, with a conference record at a lowly 7-10-1.

As the first round of the NCHA tournament approaches, head coach Steve Freeman said that the regular season is in the past.

“Obviously everyone starts out 0-0 in the playoffs,” Freeman said. “It’s a fresh start and we feel like we have a pretty good draw to start out.”

The men traveled to UW-Stout and came away with a win in the mini game after splitting the first two games of the series.

The first round match-up with the Blue Devils, is a series that had Freeman intrigued given the season woe’s between the two teams.

“Over the years we have had a lot of success over at Stout,” Freeman said. “This year early on, we lost a couple of close games over there, and just a few weeks ago we beat them when they came here.”

Freeman said that entering the postseason is a test of whether or not a team can stick to its regular season tactics.

“In the playoffs, Xs and Os don’t change very much,” Freeman said. “You pretty much stick with what you have been doing all year, now it becomes of a matter how much mistakes get magnified.”

The men enter the 2011 postseason after making a run all the way to the NCHA championship last year, a game that handed the team a tough loss to St. Norbert College.

The women begin the O’Brien Cup Playoffs Friday, Feb. 25. The men will now travel for a game at St. Norberts 7 p.m. Saturday.