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Men’s hockey advances to WIAC title game after dramatic penalty shot goal

March 4, 2015

On Feb. 27-28, the UW-River Falls men’s hockey team the traveled to UW-Eau Claire to take on the Blugolds for the WIAC semifinals.

On Friday, the Falcons pulled out a 4-3 win to open the series thanks to two goals from freshman forward Kyle Gattelaro in the third period. Sophomore forward Mike Fazio and sophomore forward Mike Dietrich added goals for the Falcons, and junior goaltender Tanner Milliron made 25 saves on the night.

Sophomore forward Mitch Kontny stiff arms a UW-Eau Claire opponent in a 4-3 loss to the Blugolds at Hunt Arena on Saturday, Jan. 24.
Sophomore forward Mitch Kontny stiff arms a UW-Eau Claire opponent in a 4-3 loss to the Blugolds at Hunt Arena on Saturday, Jan. 24. The Falcons will battle UW-Stevens Point on Saturday, March 7, for the WIAC title. (Kathy M Helgeson/University Communications)

“It was good to battle back, and especially after dropping three in the regular season to Eau Claire, so it was a good feeling to finally get the win, and obviously huge to start the playoffs that way,” said junior captain defenseman Alex Murphy.

On Saturday, the Falcons lost 4-2 to the Blugolds. Sophomore forward Taylor Burden and senior captain forward Blake Huppert each had one goal in the game, while Milliron made 44 saves.

“We didn’t play that bad of a game. They had a few really lucky bounces that went in, I think three out of their four goals were just kinda lucky,” Murphy said. “Things were not really going our way as far as puck-luck goes, but we played hard and we played a good second and third period, but after they scored two in the third I think we just sat back on our heels a little bit and probably cost us the game.”

The Falcons loss in the second game caused the two teams to enter into a one period “mini-game,” following Saturday’s semifinal. The mini-game ended in a 1-1 tie. The lone goal for the Falcons came from freshman forward AJ Jarosz. The two teams then headed into a sudden-death, mini-game overtime.

About halfway through the overtime, the Falcons earned a penalty shot when a Blugold covered the puck in the crease. Burden was award the shot. Burden went high glove, and beat Blugolds sophomore goaltender Jay Deo, which won series for the Falcons.

“You never really see a situation like that, but we were pressuring Eau Claire really hard and we had some great opportunities, and had them back on their heels, and on that particular play there was a loose puck and we had three forwards right around the crease whacking away at it,” said Head Coach Steve Freeman. “You could see the puck laying there in the edge of the crease and the Eau Claire players were pretty panicky, and they were looking for the puck and trying to box everyone out and they just dove on it and the official was standing right there and he saw that they covered it with their hand. That’s a penalty shot, so he didn’t hesitate at all. He gave the signal for the penalty shot. You can pick anybody that was on the ice to take the penalty shot. I looked at everybody and I kinda looked at Taylor and I could see it in his eyes that he was calm and wanted to take the shot and he said ‘I got this coach.'”

Because of the mini-game overtime win, the Falcons will be heading to UW-Stevens Point on Saturday, March 7, for the WIAC championship game.

“We feel really well,” Milliron said. “Obviously coming off this weekend is going to help all the guys–it’s just doing our jobs and making sure our power play is really effective, which it has been all year, and just executing all the little things.”

The puck drops at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Stevens Point. The Falcons have a 66-51-8 all-time record against Stevens Point, but are 1-2 against the Pointers this season.