Posted November 4, 2015
The UW-River Falls men’s hockey team is on a mission to prove it is back and better than ever this year following some disappointing news to conclude the 2014-2015 season.
Ending its season with a 20-7-1 record last year, the team had some pretty impressive statistics overall. According to the UWRF sports information website, the Falcons set a record for the school with a 13-game win streak. The men also won the WIAC playoff championship, which included a victory against UW-Stevens Point, a team that played in the national tournament.
However, the stats were not impressive enough to convince the NCAA committee that determines which teams get to advance to the national tournament that UWRF deserved a chance.
Although they didn’t get a bid in, Head Coach Steve Freeman said by ending their previous season with a conference championship, the men are confident.
“We believed by the end of the year last year that we were the best team in the country,” he said.
Now they are thirstier than ever for their chance at a national title and expect to pick up right where they left off. But with that expectation comes the reality of challenges a new season brings.
A common hurdle many college hockey teams face is that they typically bring in players from a junior league. The new players have to adjust to the level the team expects from them as well as fill the roles left open by graduated players. According to senior Zach Schrotenboer, this year’s freshmen are doing well with the transition.
“They work really hard and I think they’re also very skilled,” he said. “Each one of them brings something unique to the table, and I think that’s what’s important to have on a team is a bunch of different types of talent. We’re relying on them quickly already.”
Part of their quick adaptation to the team can be attributed to the clear guidelines Freeman has laid out for them. Freeman said the Falcons are big on structure, and within that structure they need the discipline to stick with it. He expects consistency because that’s what he feels yields results.
“The main thing for a coach is to get everybody to believe in what the team is about, and that’s what we try to do every year,” Freeman said in explaning his guidelines.
A final key to the Falcons’ projected success this season is the returning players. According to Freeman, they are necessary to the team.
“All the returning players understand their roles and how important they are to the success of the program,” he said. “Their name might not be in the newspaper all the time for scoring goals, but we still value them and put them in positions so we can use their talents so they can have success as individuals as well as the success of the team.”
That success is already evident after the first week of games under their belt. The Falcons are currently 1-0-1, with a tie in overtime against St. Scholastica and a win against Northland College. They return to the ice against St. Thomas for their first home game at 7:05 p.m. on Nov. 6.