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Women’s hockey eyes another NCAA tournament berth

February 18, 2015

The UW-River Falls women’s hockey team (20-3-1 overall, 9-1-1 in the WIAC) have won its second-straight WIAC regular season championship, meaning the Falcons will host the 2015 O’Brien Cup playoffs, which starts on Friday, Feb. 27.

Last year, the Falcons finished the season third in the nation after winning the third place game over the University of St. Thomas in the NCAA tournament. This year’s team is eyeing a similar finish, if not better. This Falcons team has been pegged by many as a young team, yet its seniority on the team has led the Falcons to another regular season title. The Falcons have not lost since Dec. 10.

Junior forward Chloe Kinsel, who broke the school record for points in a single season against the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds on Feb. 14, and is tied for third in the nation in points, says this season has been fun but she has her sights set on a bigger prize,

“Nothing is set in stone right now, our postseason is on the line, and these next games are huge games,” Kinsel said. “We can’t come out like they’re nothing and act like we’re going to beat these teams that we have beaten twice this season, like our upcoming game against Eau Claire.”

Kinsel, who now has 107 career points, is third all-time in program history. Senior captain forward Alice Cranston, currently has 106 points in her career, and is currently sitting at fourth place in the history books. Earlier this year, Cranston, alongside Kinsel, each scored their 100th career points in the same game against St. Thomas on Jan. 28.

The Falcons have scored 4.2 goals per game this season, more than last year’s team who scored four goals per game. The difference between this year’s team and last year’s team, according to Head Coach Joe Cranston, is this team’s lack of depth, yet the Falcons still find a way to be successful.

“This year, we only have nine forwards, in years past we have had 14-or-so forwards who all were capable of scoring,” Joe Cranston said. “This year, this team, we have about half of that. We have nine forwards play and only six are really expected to score goals, so we don’t have any depth. We have to stay away from injuries. It has been fun, and it almost feels like we are cheating the system with only six forwards scoring and we are still winning the way we are.”

Freshman goaltender Angie Hall has been the talk of the team in recent games as she has posted three-straight shutout victories for the Falcons, and her improvement has been an influential part of this team’s success. Hall has posted a 17-3-1 record for the Falcons, and she is only allowing 1.8 goals per game, which is 21st in the nation.

The Falcons are currently ranked first in the west regional rankings, according to D3hockey.com, which is a good indicator of which teams will make the NCAA tournament.

The Falcons final game of the regular season will be against the Blugolds. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21, at Hunt Arena for the annual “senior night game.” With a victory on Saturday, the Falcons will finish the regular season with the second-best winning percentage for a season (86 percent) in program history. The current best was in the 2010-2011 season at 86.4 percent.