Posted March 9, 2016
Despite a major change to the 2015-2016 UW-River Falls men’s hockey schedule, the team proved that it wouldn’t affect its success.
After the conclusion of the 2014-2015 hockey season, the coaches and schedulers within the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) decided the number of conference match-ups in regular season play would have to be changed.
According to Head Coach Steve Freeman, the decision was based on the outcome the previous scheduling had on each team.
“We were beating up on each other too much in our league,” he said. “The teams were too good to be playing each other that many times and it really hurt our win and loss percentage.”
In years past, teams in the WIAC met up during the regular season three times, but could play up to six games after adding games played during conference tournament, according to the WIAC website. The change brought the regular season matchups to occur only twice. Although decreasing a regular season matchup by one game doesn’t seem that drastic, senior and forward Zach Schrotenboer said it put special meaning on the games.
“It was kind of nice because some of the tougher games made them even more important,” Schrotenboer said. “So it kind of made them more exciting knowing you only played them twice.”
Schrotenboer also pointed out the change from three games to two made fans more anxious to see the outcome because the games proved more valuable this season.
“In my four years this has been the best fan support we’ve had since I got here,” he said. “It’s been nice for the players because we definitely get excited when there’s a lot of people in the building.”
But the change also proved a challenge to the coaches when they realized they now had to find other teams to play. The WIAC has an interlock with the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA), so Freeman began to make calls within those conferences.
The Falcons were able to play teams they haven’t matched up against in a couple of years, which Freeman said provided a good experience for the men because it opened them up to different playing styles. However, it also came at a cost to the strength of their scheduling.
“I think it hurt our strength of scheduling, because our league is so strong it’s hard to find non-conference game,” Freeman said. “A lot of teams don’t want to play you if you have a good team, they want to make sure they have a chance at a solid win.”
Schrotenboer agreed with that, but also found that when the men did play teams out of conference there was an extra effort put in by the opponent.
“I think the teams out of conference give us a little extra effort, and I think they know that when they play River Falls they’re going to give us their best effort,” he said.
Even with the team meeting different opponents, and seeing less ice time against conference opponents the Falcons found a lot of success this season.
According to the UWRF sports information website, the team concluded the season with a regular season co-championship WIAC title and a second place standing in the WIAC championship tournament.
Reflecting back on the season, Freeman said it would be too early to tell for sure whether or not the schedule switch had a positive or negative affect. One thing is for sure, it didn’t deter the success of the team.