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Hockey enters NCAA tourney

March 9, 2012

The Falcon women’s hockey team will play at Gustavus Adolphus College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

The game is scheduled for 2 p.m., at the Don Roberts Ice Rink in St. Peter, Minn.

This is UWRF’s fifth appearance in the NCAA Tourney and the third straight year the Falcons have qualified. The team’s best finish is fourth place in both 2003 and 2009.

The Gusties and Falcons are no strangers when it comes to post-season play. In each of the last three years the teams have met in first round games. In 2009 at Gustavus the Falcons won, 2-1. In 2010 at Gustavus the Gusties won, 2-0. Last year in River Falls the Gusties earned a 4-1 win at Hunt Arena.

Head coach Joe Cranston said that he expects this game, like the others played between these two schools in recent years, to be a hard fought battle.

“I know my team won’t let up,” said Cranston. “It’s going to be a great game.”

The two teams played once earlier this year and that game ended in a 1-1 overtime tie on Dec. 6 in St. Peter. “I think this game will be similar,” added Cranston. “Low scoring, but up and down the ice.”

UWRF enters the NCAA Tourney with a 23-4-2 overall record. The Falcons won the NCHA regular season title with a 17-2-1 record. Last weekend they won the NCHA O’Brien Cup title with a 4-2 win over Adrian on Saturday at Hunt Arena to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. During the NCHA conference playoffs, UWRF outscored their opponents 16-2.

The Falcons have won four straight games and 10 of their last 11 contests.

Katie Batters leads the Falcons in scoring with a team-high of 18 goals and 31 points. Four other Falcons have scored more than 11 goals this year; Alice Cranston has 16, followed by Kait Mason with 15. Katie Flangan has 14 and Alyssa Black has 11. UWRF averages 4.23 goals per game. Emma Nordness and Brook Story each have 17 assists to lead the Falcons. Cranston said that he will be looking for all players to contribute in order for the team to be successful. “Every player is key when you’re playing in March,” said Cranston. “I think we are playing good defensively, and that starts with (Melissa) Deardorff, who has been playing great. But our defensemen and forwards are playing well, too.”

Goalie Deardorff has been nearly unstoppable lately. She went 342 minutes and 15 seconds without allowing a goal until Adrian scored in the first period of Saturday’s NCHA title game. The UWRF Sports Information office noted that she has recorded a school record six shutouts this year. She is 16-3 with a 1.52 goals against average and a .932 saves percentage.

In this week’s USCHO.com poll, the Gusties are ranked No. 5 and the Falcons No. 7.

Junior Amanda Ryder says that the team’s past has helped get this team to where they are now. “What makes this team is so special is we have been through a lot this season and we have been able to stick together as a team on and off the ice. With some of the losses we have experienced this season we have learned from our mistakes and moved forward, which has helped us get this far,” said Ryder.

If the Falcons win, they will advance to the NCAA Frozen Four. The semifinals and finals will be played on March 16-17 at a site to be determined.

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