Work finally pays off for Tiger skaters in 4-1 victory
It is the opinion of the New Richmond coaches that the Tigers boys hockey team can still have a successful season.
The coaches believe the lessons learned from the Tigers' 0-4 start will be a driving factor in how much the Tigers improve this season.
The improvement began to show last Tuesday, when the Tigers earned their first win of the 2008-09 season. The win was on their home ice, by a 4-1 score over Menomonie. A week earlier, Menomonie had beaten Somerset in overtime.
"This is just the start of where we want to be," Tiger coach Adam Swanda said about getting the first win. "We're a different team than we were a week ago. The effort is getting better, they're playing like a team."
The coaches have convinced the players to expect more from themselves. The Tigers pushed themselves harder against Menomonie and it resulted in getting some breaks that weren't coming earlier in the season.
The Tigers got two goals off rebounds in the win. Being in position for rebounds is one of the results of hustle the coaches have been striving for. Tanner Olek netted the only goal of the first period, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Olek got the goal by taking a shot from between the circles. He followed the play to the net, and when the rebound bounced straight back to him, he snapped it into the net.
Olek struck again early in the second period, getting a power play goal. The Tigers moved the puck well, and when a shot came toward the net, Olek was stationed at the edge of the goal, where he deflected the shot past the Menomonie goalie.
Menomonie scored just over a minute later. That goal did nothing to alter the Tigers' focus. The Tigers came back with another goal just after Menomonie had scored.
The third Tiger goal was of a big individual effort from junior Jake Bellows. Bellows got the puck with a big forechecking effort. He then skated up ice and made a sweet move to his backhand to get the puck past the Menomonie goalie.
The Tigers scored their final goal with 7:56 gone in the third period. Jared Singerhouse was killing a penalty and won a battle for the puck in the corner of the offensive zone. He backhanded a pass to Joe Bowar in front of the net. Bowar's first shot was stopped, but he got to the rebound and stuffed it into the net.
If the Tigers escalated effort showed most in any one area in this game, it was backchecking. The Tigers transitioned back into defensive coverage better in this game and the forwards thwarted many of Menomonie's attempts to get an offense set up in the Tigers' zone.
"If you have a team that backchecks harder than it forechecks, then you have a team," Swanda said in emphasizing the team attitude the players are working to develop.
The final test for the Tigers came in the final four minutes of the game, when they had to kill off a Menomonie 5-on-3 power play. The Tigers killed off the power play, with goaltender Tanner Milliron squaring up well to stop several close range Menomonie shots.
Swanda said that Milliron was trying to do too much in the previous two losses. In this game he stayed with the form that has made him a success the past two seasons for the Tigers.
The Tigers are now in their holiday break. They next play when they make their annual trip to Rochester, Minn. for the holiday tournament there. The Tigers first game will be played on Dec. 29 against Rochester Century High School.