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Men’s hockey earns third seed for WIAC tournament

February 25, 2015

It was a tough weekend for the UW-River Falls men’s hockey team, as the Falcons lost its final two WIAC games of regular season against UW-Stevens Point 5-3 and UW-Eau Claire 3-2.

The Falcons earned the third seed in the WIAC tournament, which starts this weekend. UWRF entered the weekend with first place on its mind,

Going into Friday’s game against UW-Stevens Point, the Falcons were one game out of contention to win the WIAC regular season title for the second straight year. Going into game three of the series, the Falcons and Pointers were tied at one game a piece with a split series out in Stevens Point earlier this season.

The first period started out in Stevens Point’s favor, as Kyle Gibson scored a goal quickly in the first period to give the Pointers a 1-0 lead. The Falcons would answer halfway through the period after a tic-tac-toe passing play from freshman defenseman Terry Leabo and senior captain forward Huppert to set up a goal in front of the net for sophomore forward Christian George, his ninth of the season. The period would finish in a 1-1 tie going into the second.

The second period started out very similar as Pointers wasted no time scoring a goal 84 seconds into the period. The majority of the second period was controlled by the Stevens Point defense, making it difficult to get any type of play set up. The Falcons were able to get something going as sophomore forward Ryan Doner scored his ninth goal of the season after Pointers goalie Brandon Jaeger was unable to get a handle on the puck. Freshman forward Kyle Gattelaro and sophomore forward Mike Fazio were in on the assist, helping make the score 2-2 going into the third period.

Period number three started out very slow for both teams, but the Pointers got into a rhythm by scoring three unanswered goals in the period. Eight minutes into the period, Falcons junior goaltender Tanner Milliron was beat glove side by a shot coming from the top of the circle making it a 3-2 game. The Pointers wouldn’t stop there, scoring a goal at 13:44 to give Stevens Point a two-goal lead.

It would be 44 seconds later, and Stevens Point would answer again scoring another goal making it a three-goal game. The Falcons would answer right back, scoring a goal of its own from Leabo with assists from Huppert and Gattelaro.

The Falcons would ultimately fall 5-3 and would finish in third place in the WIAC behind Eau Claire, who the Falcons faced on Saturday night.

Head Coach Steve Freeman and the team would travel to Eau Claire to take on the team the Falcons will play in the first round of the WIAC playoffs this weekend. As soon as the puck dropped at the start of the game, the intensity between both teams came out.

The first period would be a physical one as neither team was able to put anything in the net. Five minutes into the period, two players from both teams went into the box for roughing, and seven total penalties were assessed in the first period alone.

The second period was a different story as the Falcons were able to take its first lead of the weekend on a goal scored on a tip by junior forward Mike Williams from junior captain defenseman Alex Murphy. The Falcons would quickly score again and take a two-goal lead after a power play goal scored by George with assists from Leabo and Gattelaro.

Eau Claire was able to come back in the second by scoring a shorthanded goal at 9:26. That goal was followed by a goal scored by Jack Callahan at 12:26, which would tie up the game. The third period was played evenly until another shorthanded goal was scored by River Falls native Ross Andersen to give the Blugolds the 3-2 lead and eventually the win.

Freeman said the Falcons will need to make some adjustments this upcoming weekend.

“We need to create a lot more on our fore-check. We gave them too much room to come up ice and we didn’t engage very well physically,” Freeman said.

This weekend the Falcons will travel back to Eau Claire for the start of the WIAC playoffs. The series will be an important one, as both teams will need to win out to have a chance to reach the NCAA tournament. The drop of the puck for Friday’s game is set for 7 p.m. in Eau Claire.