Tigers give Superior another battle
For the fourth straight season, the New Richmond boys hockey team saw its season end at the hands of the Superior Spartans.
The Tigers gave Superior its best battle of the playoffs thus far, when Superior beat the Tigers 2-0 in the sectional semifinals in Superior last Tuesday. Superior then rolled past River Falls 6-1 in the sectional championship game.
Superior will face Milwaukee University School in the opening round of the 2008 WIAA state tournament at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday.
New Richmond's boys gave Superior all it could handle in Tuesday's tournament game. The Tigers used a neutral zone trap, similar to that used by the Minnesota Wild, to keep Superior's scoring chances to a minimum.
"The coaching staff decided, if we had a chance to win, we had to keep it a low-scoring game," said Tiger coach Adam Swanda.
The first period of the game was scoreless, as the Tigers executed the trap defense with efficiency that would have made the Wild envious.
Early in the second period, with the Tigers in a delayed penalty situation, Superior was able to score the first goal of the game.
The Tigers' best scoring chance of the game came a few minutes later. Dan Shilts laid out on the ice to block a Superior shot. Aaron Pflueger chased down the puck and went in on a breakaway, but his shot clanked off the pipe.
In the third period the Tigers continued to play strong defensively. Superior was able to get 47 shots in the game, but most of them came from the perimeter as the Tigers excelled at controlling traffic in front of their net. Tiger goaltender Tanner Milliron was able to stop 45 of the 47 shots he faced.
Superior got its final goal with three minutes left in the game.
Swanda said the Tigers executed the game plan flawlessly, giving themselves a strong opportunity to upset the number two ranked team in the state.
"I was proud of the team game they played," Swanda said. "They controlled their destiny. They played with discipline and patience."
You'd almost think Superior looks forward to facing the Tigers, because the Spartans know the Tigers are likely to give Superior its best challenge of the playoffs. In 2007 and 2005, Superior beat the Tigers by 5-1 scores. The 2006 season came to an end in one of the most dramatic games in team history, with Superior winning 2-1 in triple overtime. This will be the seventh straight WIAA state tournament for which Superior has qualified.
The Tigers graduate a large group of seniors, including Pflueger, Shilts, Calvin Hanson, Jared Ellevold, Ben Bartels, Zach Olson and Joe Hailey. Swanda said each of the seniors found a role on the team to try making the team more successful. The Tigers finished the season with a 9-12-1 record.
Superior 2, New Richmond 0
First Period: No scoring.
Second Period: 1. SHS, Tim Smith (Chris Bishop, Pat Dalbec), 1:54
Third Period: 2. SHS, Wade Berkseth (unassisted), 13:58.
Saves: New Richmond (Tanner Milliron) 45; Superior (Kyle Johnson) 19.