Men’s hockey will begin play in new WIAC with new look, young squad
November 7, 2013
It will be a different looking season for the UW-River Falls men’s hockey team.
The team will now be playing the WIAC, instead of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA), will be playing against 15 different teams and have 14 new players on the 28 man roster.
Of the 14 returning players, four are seniors: Alec Hagaman, Jon Schreiner, Jeff Burke and Scott Lewan. Schreiner will be the captain for the team this year, while Lewan will be returning at goalie to start for his fourth straight season. Head Coach Steve Freeman said that Lewan’s experience in goal will be invaluable for the team.
“We expect Scott to be one of the top goaltenders at the nation,” Freeman said. “The goaltender is the backbone of the program, so we rely heavily on him and it’s very reassuring for everybody to have a veteran goalie back.”
Hagaman added that having a large group of young players paired with 14 returners is good for the team.
“This upcoming season is going to be exciting. We have a lot of young players that are coming in and are ready to play at a top level for us,” Hagaman said. “Our returners are going to play a big role in leading the younger guys.”
The schedule will also present some new challenges for the team. The Falcons will be facing three teams which they have played 10 or fewer times in their entire history. Additionally, the Falcons will play each of the four others teams in the WIAC three times, for a total of 12 conference games.
“It’s a little tougher for the coaching staff, in the fact that you have to prepare for so many different teams. It will show where you stack up, for us in the West Region,” Freeman said.
Freeman added that the Falcons will be playing nearly every team from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), and also most teams from the NCHA.
The Falcons will also be seeing their fair share of elite competition this season. The team will face off against No. 1 ranked, and defending national champion, UW-Eau Claire three times, No. 2 ranked St. Norbert, No. 10 ranked UW-Stevens Point three times, No. 14 ranked St. Scholastica and No. 15 ranked St. John’s University.
Additionally, UWRF will not be eligible for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, as the WIAC only has five teams.
“You would want to have that automatic bid, it’s something to play for. But it’s still the same situation, you still try to win as many hockey games as you possibly can, and let the chips fall where they may,” Freeman said. “There are four bids that we’ll have a chance to get in the NCAA tournament if we have a successful season.”
The Falcons have a long tradition of hockey success, winning three NCHA championships, 15 WIAC league championships and three national championships. The success is something which Hagaman said the team is aiming for again this season.
“Our team goal is to win the WIAC, and at the end of the year make our push toward winning a national championship,” Hagaman said.
The team will open its season at home on Friday, Nov. 8, against Concordia College-Moorhead.