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Hockey: Tigers reach title game in Rochester

Senior Nick Johnson (8) was one of six Tigers who scored in the semifinal win over Rochester John Marshall in the Kiwanis tournament at Rochester. He's shown in a recent win over Somerset. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

For the third time in the past 13 years, the New Richmond boys hockey team was able to reach the championship game in the annual Rochester (Minn.) Kiwanis tournament.

The Tigers have only won the championship in the tournament once. They came close in 2017, but lost the title game Friday, Dec. 29 to Rochester Mayo, 4-3. The last time the Tigers reached the title game at Rochester was 2014.

To reach the tournament championship game, the Tigers put together sterling efforts against Irondale and Rochester John Marshall. The Tigers opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Irondale last Wednesday. That was followed by a 6-0 win against John Marshall last Thursday. The Tigers end the 2017 portion of their schedule with an 8-2 record.

Tiger coach Adam Swanda said senior goaltender Jake Erickson was the difference for the team in their two wins in the tournament.

"Jake, in the first two games, was outstanding. He kept us in it when we were getting buzzed early in the (Irondale) game," Swanda said.

With his strong performance at the tournament, Erickson has a 95.2 save percentage this season.

Irondale was a team that earned the Tigers' respect, with Swanda saying Irondale was the toughest the Tigers faced in the tournament. The teams played a scoreless first period, before Irondale scored 53 seconds into the second period. Tiger senior Eric Langer scored a short-handed goal to tie the score 9:11 into the period.

Langer struck again five minutes into the third period, getting the go-ahead goal off an assist from Nick Johnson.

Erickson made 32 saves in the win against Irondale. He came back with 26 saves in the win over John Marshall, the Tigers' fourth shutout of the season.

Six different Tigers scored in the win, with the Tigers netting two goals in each period. Johnson and Jens Christensen scored in the first period as the Tigers played three lines throughout the game. Hayden Bradbury and Garret Thomas scored in the second period. Langer and Dane Swanda notched third period goals.

Mayo didn't come into the championship game with a flashy record (4-6), but it was clear that winning the home tournament meant a great deal to the Mayo players.

"They played right from the drop of the puck with some passion," Coach Swanda said.

Mayo jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening 5:23 of the game. The Tigers were able to come back, with Langer scoring twice in the next five minutes of action. Mayo retook the lead with a goal late in the opening period.

Mayo got the only goal of the second period. The Tigers spent most of the period killing penalties.

"We had 11 consecutive minutes of killing penalties. We didn't have a lot of momentum going with all the special teams play," Swanda said.

The Tigers cut the lead to 4-3 when Langer scored again, getting a power play goal with 5:43 left in regulation. The hat trick gives Langer a team-leading 18 goals for the season.

"Eric played lacrosse and he's got very unique hand-eye (coordination)," Swanda said. "He's in the right spot and the kid can shoot the puck."

The Tigers outshot Mayo 30-24, but they couldn't find a way to score the tying goal.

"It was a very frustrating loss. Hopefully, our best hockey is yet to come," Swanda said.

The Tigers start their 2018 schedule with a game at Baldwin-Woodville on Thursday. The Tigers will play at Appleton on Saturday.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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