New Richmond boys hockey shuts out Somerset to advance to sectional semifinalsDrawing Somerset as an opponent only heightened the excitement for the New Richmond boys hockey team as the Tigers opened the WIAA playoffs on Thursday night.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Drawing Somerset as an opponent only heightened the excitement for the New Richmond boys hockey team as the Tigers opened the WIAA playoffs on Thursday night.
The intensity of the rivalry resulted in 16 penalties. The strength of the Tigers’ penalty killing unit proved to be a major difference as New Richmond scored a 4-0 win, ending Somerset’s season.
The win moved the Tigers into Tuesday’s sectional semifinal game against Hudson. The winner of Tuesday’s game will play in the sectional championship game, which will be played at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Amery Ice Arena. The opponent in that game will be the winner of Tuesday’s game between Superior and the Burnett County co-op team based in Siren.
The Tigers showed excellent energy in the opening minutes against Somerset last Thursday. Unfortunately, that exuberance led the Tigers into drawing three quick penalties. The Tiger penalty kill quickly set the tone for the game, nullifying any Somerset attempts to get an attack started. Though Somerset had three power plays in the period, the Tigers outshot the Spartans 12-5.
The only goal of the first period was created by strong forechecking by the Tigers. Senior Nate Jones was harassing a Somerset player in the corner, leading to an attempt at a long pass to a Spartan at the far blue line. The Tigers knew these passes were coming and they picked off several during the game. Austin Zywiec picked off this pass. He fed Michael Bodsberg in front of the net and Bodsberg got the puck past Somerset goalie Jordan Langness with 4:29 elapsed in the game.
The Tigers had two power plays late in the first period, but couldn’t muster any big scoring chances in either of them. The score remained 1-0 until the final minute of the second period.
Jones and Zywiec got free on a 2-on-1 break. Jones drew the Somerset defender to him, then fed a perfectly placed pass to Zywiec who buried the shot.
Tiger coach Adam Swanda said that goal, which came with 53 seconds left in the period, drastically changed the complexion of the game. Somerset was placed in a position of having to take desperate measures in attempts to score. Swanda said he would have preferred the Tigers be more assertive and not leave this a 2-0 game until the final 1:37 of the third period.
“We allowed them to stay in the game. We should have closed the door earlier,” Swanda said.
The Tigers finally finished off the Spartans with goals 29 seconds apart late in the third period. Jones scored the first of those on a pure individual effort. He won a battle in the corner for the puck, skated to the front of the net and snapped a shot past Langness with 1:37 left in the game.
The final goal came on another 2-on-1 break. Jeremy Leavens and Max Skatrud broke free into the Somerset zone. Leavens unleashed a shot from the heart of the left faceoff circle that cleanly beat Langness on his glove side.
Tiger goalie Jacob Hilby was at his best in the third period, stopping 11 shots. He finished with 22 saves in the game for his second shutout of the season.
“Hilby really challenged Somerset and he made some big saves when we needed them,” Swanda said.
Many hockey fans are looking forward to Saturday’s sectional championship, hoping for the possibility of a New Richmond-Superior rematch. New Richmond knocked off Superior in the sectional title game last year, ending Superior’s long reign as the sectional champion.