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Busy weekend gets Tigers ready for playoffs

Three road games in three days should have the New Richmond boys hockey team prepared for anything it sees in the WIAA tournament season.

The Tigers begin 2009 tournament play this Thursday when they play at 7 p.m. in Menomonie. The Tigers are the fifth seed in this sectional bracket with Menomonie being the fourth seed. The winner of Thursday's game will be back in action next Tuesday, likely playing at Superior. Superior is currently ranked fourth in the state.

In the three road games to end last week, the Tigers went 1-2. They lost at Hudson on Thursday 4-2. They then played games on Friday and Saturday in a tournament at Rhinelander. They lost the opening night in overtime to Monona Grove, 4-3. They finished the tournament by topping Marquette, 5-3.

In Saturday's game Tiger coach Adam Swanda decided to play all four of his forward lines. Several players took the opportunity to make a positive impression on the coaches. Swanda said that Jamie Kelly, Riley Martie and Tony Deiss were players who showed they want to earn more playing time. Martie scored the Tigers' fourth goal of the game and Deiss put six shots on goal in the game. Kelly appeared to have a shot cross the goal line, but the officials didn't see the goal scored.

Patrick Hailey earned his first varsity win in goal for the Tigers in Saturday's game. Hailey stopped 21 of the 24 shots he faced from Marquette.

Jake Bellows scored twice in the win and Tanner Olek and Joe Bowar each scored once for the Tigers.

The Tiger coaches were frustrated by Friday's results, thinking they let a win get away.

"We had opportunities to win it and didn't," Swanda said. "We let their best player get to the puck and win it in the overtime."

The Tigers looked good early against Monona Grove. They built a 3-1 lead, with Jared Singerhouse scoring twice in the first period and Bellows netting a power play goal in the second period.

Monona Grove then began playing its top two lines exclusively, while the Tigers rotated in more players. Monona Grove's top line produced all four of its goals.

Last Thursday's 4-2 loss at Hudson was a game where the Tigers showed they aren't far from competing with the top teams in the area.

The Tigers scored the only goal of the first period when Bellows drilled a shot past Raider goalie Garrett Patrick with 51.5 seconds left on the clock.

The Raiders then scored four goals, two in the second period and two more in the third period. Bowar cut the final margin to 4-2 by scoring with 5:43 left in regulation.

Swanda said the Tigers missed their chances when they didn't capitalize on several good scoring chances in the first period.

"We put ourselves in a position to win the game from the start," Swanda said. He pointed to several breakaways and power plays as missed chances the Tigers needed to get production from.

Tiger goalie Tanner Milliron was outstanding for much of the game, stopping 38 shots. One of the big differences in the game was the action in front of the net. When the Tigers got scoring chances, they would usually get only one shot out of that chance. Because Hudson was so much more active in front of the Tiger net, the Raiders were getting two or more shots out of their best scoring chances. That led to Hudson having a 42-23 edge in shots.

The Tigers tried to shut down Hudson's leading scorers in this game and they'll have to do the same thing when they face Menomonie on Thursday. Menomonie has two players, Drew Otto and Mike Swanson who have scored a large majority of the team's goals. The Indians have also been getting strong goaltending from Treysen Vavra.

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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