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Overtime win earns New Richmond boys hockey team third place finish at Rochester

New Richmond’s Hayden Bradbury (2) backhands a pass toward the net during the Tigers’ recent 11-1 win over Menomonie.

Cole Thomas scored a power play goal 37 seconds into overtime, giving the New Richmond boys hockey team a 4-3 win over Rochester Mayo in the third place game in the annual Rochester Kiwanis Hockey Festival last Friday.

The Tigers opened the tournament last Wednesday with a 3-2 win over Rochester Century. In the semifinals, the Tigers dropped a 5-2 decision to Park of Cottage Grove. Park defeated Rochester John Marshall 4-3 in the tournament’s championship game.

The Tigers ended the 2016 portion of their schedule with a 7-4 record.

The Rochester tournament has long been a good test of the Tigers’ skills and this year was no exception. The Tigers built a 3-0 lead over Century in the opening game, then had a unique battle to hold onto the win.

Brady Werner and Stuart Pearson scored in the first period for the Tigers and Nick Johnson netted a goal, giving the Tigers a 3-0 lead that stood until the middle of the third period. Century’s first goal was scored by Will Zmolek, son of former NHL defenseman Doug Zmolek.

The last three minutes became an extreme test of the Tigers’ penalty killing unit. The Tigers were called for penalties at the 14:17 and 15:09 marks. Century pulled its goalie, putting the Tigers at a 6-on-3 disadvantage for almost a minute. Century scored with four seconds left before the first penalty was done, so the Tigers had to spend the final minute at a 6-on-4 situation to preserve their win.

Tiger coach Adam Swanda said the team does a 6-on-3 situation in practices to work on penalty killing position, but said he never expected that he’d have to use those skills in a game.

Swanda praised New Richmond goalie Jake Erickson for his play, especially in the sometimes frantic third period. Erickson made 27 saves in the win, including 15 in the third period.

The Tigers got caught unprepared for the intensity brought by Park in the opening period of their semifinal game. The Tigers trailed 4-2 after the first period. The Tigers upped their intensity in the final two games, but couldn’t score again.

“They came out strong and we weren’t up to their pace,” Swanda said. “We didn’t play our best first period.”

Blake Kretovics scored the first goal of the game, 2:29 into the action. Werner scored at the 9:38 mark, cutting Park’s lead to 3-2.

Swanda was impressed with how the players responded after a subpar first period.

“It was one of our stronger games. After the first period we dialed it in,” he said.

The Tigers went through early challenges in the third place game, having to kill off 10 minutes of penalties in the opening period. The Tigers came out of the period tied 1-1, thanks to a short-handed goal from Johnson.

Johnson gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead 1:28 into the second period. Kretovics scored at the 4:51 mark. The second period ended 3-3 and the third period was scoreless.

Mayo took a roughing penalty with 39 seconds left in regulation and the Tigers had some good scoring chances in those final seconds. The Tigers kept the pressure on at the start of the overtime. Thomas got the game-winner, scoring off an excellent feed from Eric Langer.

In last year’s tournament at Rochester, Brady Maus emerged as a Tiger who excelled over the rest of the season. Swanda said he saw the same qualities in Johnson’s play in this year’s play at Rochester.

“The stats don’t provide an indication of how strong Nick Johnson played. He played really strong on the puck. He matured into a game we need every game,” Swanda said.

The Tigers are on another road trip this weekend. They’ll play at Bay Port on Friday and at Neenah on Saturday. The Tigers return to Middle Border Conference action next Tuesday with a game against WSFLG at Siren.

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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