Milwaukee road trip readies New Richmond boys for hockey playoffsA road trip to Milwaukee over the weekend was used to prepare the New Richmond boys hockey team for the upcoming WIAA playoffs.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
A road trip to Milwaukee over the weekend was used to prepare the New Richmond boys hockey team for the upcoming WIAA playoffs.
The Tigers open the playoffs at home this Thursday. They will face the winner of Tuesday’s game between Somerset and Barron. The winner on Thursday will advance to the WIAA sectional semifinals next Tuesday.
The Milwaukee road trip started Friday, with the Tigers defeating the WNS Storm 8-3 at the Kern Center on the Milwaukee School of Engineering campus. WNS is a co-op team hosted by Whitefish Bay.
On Saturday the Tigers had to face Milwaukee Marquette, the seventh ranked boys team in the state. This game was tied 1-1 until the final minute of the second period. Marquette scored once in that final minute, then added three goals in the third period to top the Tigers 5-1.
Tiger coach Adam Swanda said the team is anticipating a rematch with Somerset in Thursday’s tournament game. The Tigers enter the playoffs with a 14-9 record, earning the second seed in the sectional tournament bracket.
In preparation for the playoffs, the coaches have been tweaking the Tiger systems, getting ready for all possible scenarios. The two games in Milwaukee gave the coaches a chance to see those changes in action, without scouts from possible tournament opponents seeing them.
The Tigers played an excellent first period on Friday, outshooting WNS in the opening period 16-4. They jumped ahead of WNS 4-0 three minutes into the second period. Then the Tigers started to relax. That’s not what the coaches wanted to see. WNS crept back to within 5-2 by the end of the second period.
Two goals by Austin Zywiec, giving him three for the game, helped the Tigers pull away in the third period.
Tiger coach Adam Swanda said he was pleased that the Tigers recognized that their play dropped off in the second period and they improved those aspects of their attack in the third period.
Saturday’s game represented a playoff level challenge for the Tigers and for most of the game, the Tigers were up to the challenge. Marquette is not only the top-ranked team from the Milwaukee area, the Hilltoppers have a state Player of the Year finalist in senior Joe Llaurado. Llaurado has scored 41 goals this season and he has had seven games where he’s scored four points or more.
The Tiger coaches set the goal of frustrating Llaurado and the rest of the Hilltopper first line. The Tigers controlled the time of possession early in the game and they generated the first goal. Senior Max Skatrud scored 3:44 into the second period on the power play, off assists from Nate Jones and Kaleb Kier.
Marquette was able to come back, tying the game in the final seconds of a power play at the 8:43 mark.
The game turned when Marquette scored with 54 seconds left in the second period. That goal came right after a Tiger power play, where they had several great scoring chances, but couldn’t net a goal.
In the third period Marquette scored at the 7:27 mark. The Tiger coaches chose to shorten the bench, trying to be overtly aggressive in an attempt to get back into the game. Marquette took advantage, adding two late goals.
“When the game was close, we played really good,” Swanda said. “We frustrated Llaurado.”
Swanda said both opponents over the weekend tried to “stretch the rink” by breaking players out to the far blue line. He said that’s good experience, because he expects there will be playoff opponents who will try using that tactic.