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Men’s hockey team looks back on championship season

March 25, 2015

The UW-River Falls men’s hockey team had a fitting end to its season: the Falcons won its first ever WIAC Commissioner’s Cup by beating the UW-Stevens Point Pointers on the road, 3-1, on March 7.

However, the Falcons had a long road to get to the WIAC championship as the team had an up and down season. To start its season off, the Falcons won 13 straight games which broke a school record for the most wins in a row for the men’s program.

But then the team started to struggle as it started conference play in January after a short winter break, and the Falcons started putting together losing streaks instead of winning streaks. Yet, the team kept going. No matter how far the team got down it kept fighting and taking the games one game at a time.

The team went into the WIAC playoffs ranked third in the WIAC standings which meant it had to hit the road. The Falcons first headed to UW-Eau Claire, where the team won 4-3 and lost 2-4, and then won the “mini-game” 2-1 in overtime to get to head out to Stevens Point and ended up taking home the Commissioner’s Cup.

“I thought we had a really good year. We ended up getting the trophy at the end of the year for the WIAC playoffs, so anytime you can come home with hardware it’s always good,” said sophomore forward Taylor Burden. “Unfortunately we didn’t make it into the tournament, which sucks, but at the end of the day we did have a good year and it’s something to propel us into next year.”

Throughout the season there have been multiple players to have big moments in big games, but there wasn’t one key big-time scorer for UWRF this season. All season long there had been players that stood out that were just doing the small, everyday things. The team didn’t consist of just one star, instead it consisted with a whole team of stars day in and day out.

“As the season went on we used a lot of different players in different kinds of roles but guys kinda picked up on it and were able to realize they don’t always have to score a lot of goals or be in the newspaper or something like that to be recognized as a good player,” said Head Coach Steve Freeman. “We try to really put a lot of stock on that on a daily basis, complementing the guys on how hard they play, doing the little things behind the scenes that don’t show up in the newspaper or on the score sheet and things like that whether it is playing great defensively or blocking shots or playing extremely hard coming back to the defensive zone. It’s things like that the average fan doesn’t see but I think we were a true team as far as we were able to use our whole lineup. Even in a championship game on the road everybody played and that was our strength.”

This year the team was a very young team that overcame adversity and worked well together. The team only had two seniors, forwards Tom DeBace and Blake Huppert, whose careers ended with winning the Commissioner’s Cup.

“The day it ended you wish it could keep going and I can’t wait to get started again next year,” Freeman said. “It’s going to be a very strong team and we have high goals set for ourselves and we will start working on those right away and some of the off-season things but I can’t wait to get started and see if we can take another step.”