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UWRF women skate back to frozen four

Members of the UW-River Falls women's hockey team celebrate after defeating the University of St. Thomas, 4-1, last Friday night at Hunt Arena to clinch a berth in the NCAA Division III frozen four for the third consecutive season. (Photo by Hailey Smith)

The UW-River Falls women's hockey team clinched a berth in the NCAA Division III national semifinals for the third straight year with a 4-1 victory over the University of St. Thomas Friday night at Hunt Arena.

The third-ranked Falcons, 22-5-2, will face fifth-ranked Elmira (22-4-1) in one semifinal game this Friday, March 18, in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Top-ranked and defending national champion Plattsburgh (27-1-0) will take on No. 4 Middlebury (21-4-3) in the other semifinal. The third place and championship games will be played Saturday in Plattsburgh.

Last Friday Hailey Nielsen had two goals and an assist and Dani Sibley dished out two assists in UWRF's 4-1 victory over St. Thomas.

After a scoreless opening period Nielsen put the Falcons on the board 29 seconds into the second with a shot from the point with assists from Sibley and Paige Johnson.

The Tommies tied things up at the 12:39 mark of the second but Nielsen scored her second goal of the game three minutes later on another blast from the point with Victoria Holman earning an assist.

The Falcons got a pair of power-play goals early in the third, from Chloe Kinsel at 3:15 and Johnson at 5:29, to take a 4-1 lead. Sibley and Lydia Wagner assisted on Kinsel's tally while Nielsen earned an assist on the goal by Johnson.

UWRF goalie Angie Hall stopped all 11 shots she faced in the third period and finished with 30 saves to send the Falcons to the Frozen Four.

Under Joe Cranston, the only coach in program history, the Falcons have reached the NCAA Tournament eight straight seasons and qualified for the national semifinals the last three years. UWRF has finished third in each of the last two seasons. They lost to Elmira, 3-2, in last year's semifinals before defeating Norwich, 4-3, in the third place game. In 2014 they lost to Norwich, 4-2, in the semifinals before defeating St. Thomas, 5-3, to claim the third place trophy.

Bob Burrows

Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.

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