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Men’s hockey needs two wins to capture back-to-back WIAC titles

February 18, 2015

The seventh nationally ranked men’s hockey team is 7-3 in the WIAC and 18-4-1 overall with two games left in the regular season, and the Falcons currently sit in second place in the WIAC behind rival UW-Stevens Point.

Up until January, the team was sitting undefeated looking strong, but, after the break, the team struggled and its undefeated streak was broken on Jan. 9 against the University of St. Thomas.

“I think we knew it was going to happen eventually and so when it did happen we knew that all we could do was to just play the same way and not really change everything and look to blame somebody,” said junior captain forward Alex Murphy. “We just stuck to the plan and eventually worked ourselves out of it.”

The Falcons faced the UW-Stout Blue Devils in Menomonie, Wisconsin, on Feb. 13-14. The Falcons won the first game on Friday 3-2. Goals were scored by sophomore forward Christian George, sophomore forward Ryan Doner, and freshman forward Kyle Gattelaro. Junior goaltender Tanner Milliron made 31 saves.

“That was a weekend that we expected to win, and I think everyone expected us to, but those sometimes are really hard games,” said Head Coach Steve Freeman. “You kind of have a tendency to look ahead and look by them and we came out a little bit slow on Friday night and did not play a great game. It was a little bit sloppy and we got the win. They scored a goal with the goalie out with seventeen seconds left so it was a 3-1 hockey game but it ended up 3-2.”

Then on Saturday the Falcons won 5-2. Sophomore forward Mitch Kontny had two goals on the night and Gattelaro, sophomore defenseman Jeff Bergh, and sophomore forward Mike Dietrich each had added one. Milliron made 33 more saves on Saturday.

“But then, as it has been all year, we bounced back and played a really solid hockey game on Saturday night,” Freeman said. “We played well, we played with a lot of speed and a lot of structure in our game where we were in good position all the time. So our power play worked well and we did a lot of good things. So that was very positive coming out of that weekend and we got the two wins and that was the objective of the whole weekend.”

Earlier this season, the Falcons were dealing with a lot of different injuries from the very start but as the season is winding down the Falcons seem to have overcome them and are healthy as the team is reaching the playoffs.

The Falcons have two games left in the regular season. In order for the Falcons to land at first place in the WIAC, and home ice advantage, the team needs to win its last two games.

“It’s coming down to the conference battle now so it’s not really going to determine our season,” Milliron said. “You know, obviously we want to win the WIAC and our league, but we just have to play our game and not focus on the win or loss. We just have to make sure that we do stay consistent and obviously the win is the goal and if we play or game that shouldn’t be a problem, we should be able to win that game easily.”

On Friday, Feb. 20, the Falcons face Stevens Point at Hunt Arena. That game is also “Parents Night” for the Falcons. The team then faces UW-Eau Claire on the road on Saturday, Feb. 21.