Saints bounce Falcons againAfter rolling to a 14-3-2 record in its first 19 games, the UW-River Falls men’s hockey team went 2-5-1 over its final eight games, including a loss and a tie at the hands of St. Scholastica over the weekend that eliminated the Falcons from the NCHA tournament and dashed any hopes they had of fighting for a national championship.
By: David Urbaniak, Staff Correspondent, River Falls Journal Falcons again
After rolling to a 14-3-2 record in its first 19 games, the UW-River Falls men’s hockey team went 2-5-1 over its final eight games, including a loss and a tie at the hands of St. Scholastica over the weekend that eliminated the Falcons from the NCHA tournament and dashed any hopes they had of fighting for a national championship.
St. Scholastica, the No. 7 seed in the NCHA tournament, scored early and often in a 5-2 victory over the No. 2 Falcons Friday night at Hunt Arena. Needing a victory to stay alive and force a 20 minute mini-game Saturday, the Falcons gave up two third period goals to allow the Saints to force a 3-3 tie and advance to the tournament semifinals this weekend at top-seeded St. Norbert.
The Falcons fired 52 shots at Saints’ goaltender Kyle Johnson Saturday night but could only come away with a tie that ended their season with a record of 16-8-3.
“We were out-played in all facets of the game,” Falcon coach Steve Freeman said. “They had pressure on us all night. We had many fine scoring chances. We just got beat by a hot goaltender. It just leaves you with a hollow feeling.”
This is the second straight year St. Scholastica has knocked the Falcons out of the NCHA tournament. The Saints defeated UWRF 2-1 in the tournament semifinals in 2007 and are 4-0-1 in their last five games at Hunt Arena.
St. Scholastica won its fourth straight game at Hunt Arena Friday night by scoring four first period goals, including the first just 26 seconds into the game.
St. Scholastica led 2-0 before UW-RF’s Tyler Czuba beat Johnson on a breakaway at the 11:56 mark of the first period to cut the Saints’ lead in half. The Saints tacked on two more goals less than two minutes apart later in the period to take a 4-1 lead and sending Falcon goalie Stephan Ritter to the bench.
Dustin Norman made it a 4-2 game with 15 seconds left in the second period when he put in a rebound on a power play with T.J. Dahl and Derek Hansberry assisting. But the Saints scored the only goal of the third period 1:33 in to make the final 5-2.
Ritter stopped 16 of 20 shots he faced in the opening period while Tyler Owens stopped 16 of 17 shots in net over the final 40 minutes. The Saints’ Johnson made 29 saves.
The Falcons needed a win in the second game of the series Saturday night and came out sharp, getting a first period goal by Jim Henkemeyer a the 7:39 mark to take a 1-0 lead. On the play Pat Borgestad fed a pass to Dahl, who then found a wide-open Henkemeyer streaking towards the back-door. Henkemeyer grabbed the pass, faked the forehand shot, pulled the puck to his backhand, and beat Johnson.
The Saints tied the game 5:36 into the second period with a goal from A.J Tucker, the team’s leading goal scorer.
Less than three minutes later Norman slapped in a power-play goal to give the Falcons a 2-1 lead, with Dahl and Hansberry assisting. Seven minutes later Norman added his second goal of the period, as he drove a rebound past Johnson on the backdoor. Henkemeyer and Josh Meyers picked up the assists, and the Falcons looked to be in control with a 3-1 lead.
But in the third period the Falcons self destructed by taking two penalties within the first four minutes and the Saints capitalized on both opportunities to tie the score, 3-3.
UW-RF tried to battle back to take the lead, but Johnson made many key saves in the third period and in the five-minute overtime and finished with 49 saves on the night. Owens also played well, stopping 37 of 40 shots on net, many in high pressure situations.