Falcons right ship
About a month ago, things were not looking good for the UW-River Falls men's hockey team, but with a stingy defense and a solid power play, the Falcons have won seven of their last eight games and are above .500 for the first time this season (8-7-1 overall, 2-4-0 NCHA).
The Falcons won two more games last week against Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) teams. They blanked Concordia College-Moorhead (Minn.) 3-0 last week Wednesday, and posted a 2-1 overtime win against St. John's University (Minn.) Friday.
UW-RF will have its first NCHA game in more than a month when it plays No. 6 UW-Stout (10-5-0, 4-2-0 NCHA) Friday at Hunt Arena at 7:05 p.m. It will travel to Winona, Minn., to play St. Mary's University (1-10-1), another MIAC team, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Allowing an average of 1.75 goals a game through the last eight and scoring on 23 percent of their power play chances during that span, the Falcons might have saved a season that appeared to be lost.
"We are a lot more under control in our own zone," head coach Steve Freeman said. "Teams that win score power play goals and kill penalties."
Bo Storozuk started his first game since Nov. 8 and picked up his first collegiate win by shutting out Concordia in a 22 save effort last week. Derek Hansberry scored two goals and freshman Grant Everett scored his first collegiate goal and assisted on both Hansberry goals in the 3-0 win.
"He (Everett) has paid his dues," Freeman said. "Grant has played hard all year and is a great passer and playmaker. He set up some nice plays for Derek on his goals and has earned his spot on the top line."
Freeman said it is important to have both Storozuk and No. 1 goalie Stephan Ritter play well in the last half of the season.
"It's always good to have two guys playing well for you down the stretch," he said. "You know if you have two guys going well for you, the team doesn't have to rely on one guy doing it all. The guys have a lot of confidence in Storozuk and you can see that he has the confidence in himself now."
Hansberry said if there was a lack of confidence in Storozuk, the rest of the Falcons did not help the cause.
"His confidence is high," Hansberry said of Storozuk. "We all didn't play too well in the beginning of the season and didn't help Bo out that much. He kept us in a few games this year."
Ben Beaudoin was the hero for the Falcons Friday night against St. John's, scoring a power play goal 3 minutes, 23 seconds into overtime to give the team a 2-1 victory.
"He was excited after the game," Freeman said of Beaudoin's game winning goal. "Our young guys play with a lot of emotion."
St. John's Karl Gilbert was penalized for hooking and Beaudoin capitalized just more than a minute later.
Tyler Czuba scored his team leading 12th goal of the season to answer a goal by SJU's Brian Baker in the third period.
"Big goal from Czuba to tie it up," Hansberry said. "Glad we were able to get the power play goal in overtime to win."