Not many players get to play college hockey in their hometown, but that’s exactly what Alice Cranston has experienced the last four seasons at Wisconsin-River Falls.
Then again, when a school has everything you admire in academics and athletics, why look anywhere else?
“The most appealing aspect to me about River Falls was their hockey program and the history of its success,” Cranston said. “Also, the teaching program at River Falls was an influential factor, being as teaching was a passion of mine and something I knew I would like to pursue a career in someday. Lastly, the location and size of the school. It is extremely close to my home, it has a small-town feel, and it is only 30 minutes from the Twin Cities.”
On the ice, Cranston is ninth in the nation in scoring this season with 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points and is enjoying the best year of her career offensively.
Still, Cranston is a team-first player, and winning the WIAC regular-season title this season was a long time coming.
“It is amazing to have come this far in four years and I am so excited going into playoffs,” said Cranston. “Winning the conference was a goal of mine, as well as our team, and reaching that goal is extremely rewarding.”
From the outside looking in, the casual observer may see the WIAC as a pushover with just four teams.
Not so, said Cranston.
“The WIAC is very competitive being, that three out of the four teams in our conference have been nationally-ranked in the top 10 the last couple of years,” Cranston said. “One positive to having just four teams in the conference is that it gives more choice when choosing our nonconference games. With only four teams in the conference, there are less games that are required to play, meaning we have the opportunity to play more competitive teams when choosing our nonconference games.”
That said, being able to skate for the Falcons and round out her skill set is something Cranston has not taken for granted since arriving on campus back in 2011.
“One way my game has developed over the past four years is the leadership role I have obtained,” explained Cranston. “With such a young team this year, it is important for all upperclassmen to demonstrate leadership skills on and off the ice, and I think this is something I have developed throughout my four years of hockey at River Falls. I give credit to my coaches and my teammates. We push each other every single day to be better as individuals and as a team, and this plays an important role in our team’s success over the past four years.”
One coach she credits for giving her that extra nudge over the years has been her father, Matt.
“My dad played hockey and every member of my dad’s family was and still is heavily involved in hockey in many ways,” Cranston said. “I started skating when I was three years old and had my dad as a coach from then all the way up through high school. He was a huge part in my development as a player and someone who really pushed me in high school to continue my hockey career to the collegiate level.”
In high school, Cranston played for the Saint Croix Valley Fusion and led her team to three consecutive Wisconsin state tournament championships. She was first team all-conference and first team all-state as a sophomore, junior, and senior, and was the Big Rivers Conference player of the year as a junior and senior. Cranston was named to the WIAA All-Tournament team all three years and was named the Wisconsin offensive player of the year her senior year.
Now with just a handful of games remaining, Cranston has found herself looking to the future, a future that will no doubt include hockey.
“I intend on utilizing my degree in elementary education by getting a job as an elementary teacher once I graduate,” said Cranston. “I plan to stay involved in hockey in full capacity. I would love to continue playing hockey and even be a hockey coach someday as well.”
Before she graduates, though, Cranston offers simple advice for all Wis.-River Falls incoming freshmen.
“Work hard,” she said. “And be ready for an amazing experience.”
All six conference tournaments begin next week. … Elmira remained the top-ranked team in this week’s USCHO.com Division III Women’s Poll. … Adrian, Gustavus Adolphus. and Norwich have each allowed just 1.26 goals per game, tops in the country. … Plattsburgh (5.19) and Elmira (5.07) lead the nation in goals per-game average. … Oswego’s penalty kill is succeeding at a staggering 94.7 percent efficiency (71-for-75), while Elmira’s (31.53, 35-for-111) and Adrian’s (30.84, 33-for-107) power-play efficiencies are both above 30 percent. St. Scholastica is right there as well (29.76, 25-for-84).