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Women’s hockey ready to secure NCHA title

February 10, 2012

The UW-River Falls women’s hockey team is in a good position to win their second consecutive NCHA regular season title and their third in the last four years. Unlike last year, this edition of the team will not have had an undefeated regular season.

Going into this weekend’s away series at last-place Finlandia University, the Falcon women have a 17-3-2 record according to uwrfsports.com. Not being perfect up to this point does not worry Joe Cranston, the only head coach in the program’s 13-year history.

“I think losing a couple of games this year is to our advantage. We know that we can lose, and we have to out-work our opponents,” Cranston said.

Sophomore forward Brook Story, a key contributor this season with 13 assists, agrees with her coach.

“Losing during the season pushes us to work harder every day because we know that we are beatable, and if we want to win when it counts we have to work hard and play with heart because we know that every other team will,” the Warroad, Minn., native said.

The Falcons were one of two teams from the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association to make the NCAA tournament last year. Coach Cranston thinks that only the winner of the NCHA postseason tournament, the O’Brien Cup, will advance to the next level. The O’Brien Cup winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Last year, the team advanced to the O’Brien Cup finals but lost an overtime game to Adrian College. Then, after reaching the NCAA tournament, the team lost to Gustavus Adolphus in the quarterfinals.

Coming up short of the ultimate goal last year will be beneficial to this year’s team, according to both coach and player.

“Winning hockey games in March is not an easy thing to do, so I’m not too concerned that we lost in the end last year. But as a coach I have made some adjustments in the way we do things that I think will be to our advantage this year,” Cranston said in reference to the post-season.

Story believes that last post-season’s losses will help this year’s team, but it will help them in a different way.

“We are reminded of what it was like to end the season last year the way we did, and how we felt the next day. We do not want to experience that again. We want to make sure that we play to the best of our ability, and thinking of last year’s outcome should allow us to do that,” Story said.

United States College Hockey Online ranked the Falcons the No. 8 team in the nation in their most recent poll. A contributing factor to that ranking, is how close the teammates are to each other.

“Our team has a special bond. We all get along great on and off the ice, and I think that allows us to achieve success,” Story said.

Cranston is confident in his team and a big part of that has been the effort they have shown in games and in practice.

“We are just starting to play like we practice. I like the way we are playing now, and I think it will be tough for someone to beat us right now,” Cranston said about his team.

The NCHA O’Brien Cup begins Feb. 24 with the high seed in each matchup hosting the first round.