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Women’s hockey opens NCAA tourney

March 10, 2011

The UW-River Falls women’s hockey team has received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament after losing for the firs time in the O’Brien Cup Championship.

Last weekend began with the Falcons owning a perfect record. By weekend’s end, the Falcons saw that record slip away to Adrian College 4-3 in overtime of the conference championship game.

The loss ended the Falcons quest for perfection, however head coach Joe Cranston said that the goal of the entire season was still alive.

“The ultimate goal of this season for our team is to win a national championship,” Cranston said.

While Cranston said that the team was focused on winning each game, he added that once the undefeated record came into discussion, it was not the focus of the team.

“We really don’t even talk about winning games,” Cranston said. “It’s all about playing hockey the way that we want to play it.”

Highlighting the tournament for the Falcons were Katie Flanagan , who finished with six goals and an assist and kait Mason who added six goals and two assists.

Flanagan, who netted a hat-trick in the victory over St. Norbert’s, said that to be in a position fortunate enough to have an undefeated record and a number one ranking is something that the team does not take
for granted.

“I think its something that we all need to really take in,” Flanagan said. “Some of us have been there before, so we know what it takes.”

Senior forward Jamie Briski said that the loss was disappointing, but to make the NCAA tournament is something that the team has been working hard for the whole season.

“I think once we got up in that game we just thought that we had it won,” Briski said. “We outplayed them in overtime but just got the bad bounce that ended up costing us.”

Briski added that the emotions of playing at least one more game for the Falcons is something that has been weighing heavy on her mind.

“When I thought that Saturday could have been my last game, I did not even think it was real,” Briski said. “After playing hockey for 18 straight years, it is going to take forever to sink in.”

The Falcons, now 24-1-4 overall, will host Gustavus Adolphus in a first round game of the NCAA tournament at 7:05 p.m. March 11 at Hunt Arena.

The two teams played early in the season, with the Falcons winning a tight contest by a final score of 4-2 at Hunt Arena.

Briski said that with the O’Brien Cup behind them, all eyes are set on a national championship.

“Now we are just focused on having intense practices and hopefully those will carry over to Friday,” Briski said. “We have been given a great opportunity here and we need to come together as a team and get a win.”

With the at-large bid going to the Falcons, the team secured one of two such spots given in the country. The other is Norwich University, who received a first round bye.

Locations for semifinal and finals action are pending results of first round games. If the Falcons defeat Gustavus Adolphus they will play the Norwich University Cadets March 18 in the NCAA semifinals, with the championship game set for March 19.