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Women’s hockey team faces high expectations

October 24, 2014

After a slow start to the 2013-2014 hockey season, the Women’s hockey team turned it around and finished the season the third best team in the nation.

In 1999, UW-River Falls had its inaugural season for the Women’s hockey program. The team finished with a record of 3-15, the worst season the team has ever had. In the following season, the team would finish second in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) and were the NCHA tournament champions.

Since its first season, the Falcons have never finished the regular season below third place in conference play, and have finished first in five of the last six seasons.

Head Coach Joe Cranston has been part of the team since day one, compiling a 238-114- 34 overall record. The Falcon’s 2013 season was the best finish in the teams history, capturing third place in the NCAA Frozen Four in Plattsburgh, New York. It was the third time the women’s hockey team had made it to the Frozen Four.

Leading the pack last season were four seniors: goaltender Ashley Kuechle, and forwards Kait Mason, Katie Batters and Brook Story, who have all made their mark in the all-time record books.

Mason, Batters and Story are the top three women’s hockey scorers in school history. Mason finished her four-year career with 69 goals and 63 assists totaling 132 points. Following close behind is Batters who finished with 114 points including 68 goals and 46 assists. Story finished one point shy of 100 total points with 40 goals and 59 assists.

Kuechle, who was one of the main goaltenders for the Falcons in the past two seasons, finished her career with 1030 saves and a goal’s against average of 1.62. She also finished with a record of 37-9-8 and a .925 save percentage.

With the loss of those four players, the Falcon hockey team will have some big holes to fill, but Joe Cranston is confident that the returners will be able to step up and continue where the team left off.

One player Joe Cranston feels confident with is junior forward Chloe Kinsel. The St. Paul, Minnesota, native finished the last two seasons atop the team as one of the leading scorers and has tallied 34 goals and 66 points in her career at UWRF. Kinsel feels that there are fans that have some high expectations.

“I think there is going to be some pressure this year,” Kinsel said. “We are going to be expected to win but we gotta just play our game.”

The Falcons will also look to the four seniors on the team this season: defenseman Sam Greeley, forward Alice Cranston, and two-way players Allie Olson and Kendal Evenson. Alice Cranston looks to be a leader as the lone senior forward on the team. Joe Cranston has a lot of confidence in his defense this season, “Our defensive core coming back here is probably the best I’ve ever had here.”

Leading the defense is Greeley, who made the 2014 All-WIAC team. Other senior defensive players, Evenson and Olson, will look to try and keep the opposing team from getting to the Falcon goaltenders.

The Falcons also have a young sophomore defenseman in Paige Johnson who also made the 2014 All-WIAC team in her first year. The Falcons also gained a transfer from Minnesota State-Mankato, Carina Randazzo.

A large concern for the Falcons this season is who will play between the pipes in replacing Kuechle. The Falcons do have options at the position with one returner and two freshmen.

Junior Meaghan Wenner is the only returning goaltender for the Falcons this season. In her two seasons with the Falcons Wenner has a 2-0 record with four goals against, 35 total saves and a save percentage of .897.

The Falcons have brought in two freshmen goaltenders, Kylie Hommerding and Angie Hall. Hommerding was an all-conference player in Minnesota for the Proctor-Hermantown Mirage, accumulating a .902 save percentage in her career. Hall, who played for the White Bear Lake Bears in Minnesota, was named the team’s most valuable player her senior year and was also a semi-finalist for “Goaltender of the Year” in Minnesota.

The team will start the season with tough games right away as they take on conference opponent UW-Stevens Point. Last season, the two teams met five times as the Falcons would garner a 2-2-1 record against the Pointers.

The Falcons will also face non-conference rival Gustavus Adolphus College, who has knocked the team out of the NCAA tournament on numerous occasions.

The Falcons start the 2014 season against the University of St. Thomas at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1 at home. St. Thomas was the team the Falcons defeated last year in the Frozen Four to capture the third place title.