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Tiger boys hockey starts playoffs early, beats River Falls in overtime

New Richmond's Max Skatrud is mobbed by his teammates after Skatrud scored the game-winner in overtime against River Falls.

Playoff hockey started early for the New Richmond boys this year.

With the New Richmond and River Falls boys battling for the second seed in the WIAA sectional tournament bracket, Monday's game at the New Richmond Sports Center had all the excitement and intensity you could want from a tournament game.

The game was deadlocked at 2-2 at the end of regulation. New Richmond junior Maxwell Skatrud banged home the game-winner at the 2:38 mark into overtime, giving the Tigers their eighth straight win.

This was a noteworthy week for the Tigers. Along with beating River Falls, the Tigers also locked up their ninth straight Middle Border Conference championship with a 9-2 win over Baldwin-Woodville last Thursday.

Hockey fans couldn't have asked for more rock'em, sock'em action than in Monday's game. The Tigers played with incredible energy from the start. The Tigers were relentless with their pressure, putting 53 shots on goal. Only an outstanding performance from River Falls goalie Garrett Jensen kept this game from being decided much earlier.

All three Tiger goals were the result of hard work around the net. Whether it was battling to get a rebound or fighting for position to accept the pass, the Tigers were a constant threat around the RF net.

That's how the game-winner was scored. Nate Jones won a battle for the puck behind the Wildcat net. He sent a pass to Skatrud in front of the net and Skatrud buried the shot for his second goal of the night.

Tiger coach Adam Swanda said his top lines, led by Jones, were relentless in their efforts in Monday's game.

"Nate Jones played his butt off," Swanda said. "I thought our go-to guys were up to the challenge."

While the Tigers had great energy at the start of the game, it was River Falls that scored first. The Wildcats scored with 7:08 left in the first period.

Skatrud answered that goal by scoring with 3:05 left in the first. He got the puck at the corner of the net and kept digging at it until he got it to squeeze past Jensen's blocker and into the net.

The Tigers got the only goal of the fast-paced second period. Senior Josh Leavens got the puck outside the post and with a back-handed move, was able to tuck the puck inside the post with 1:01 left in the period.

River Falls scored with 4:33 left in the third period to send the game into overtime.

Kyle Frey had a strong game in goal to get the win for the Tigers, stopping 25 of the 27 shots he faced.

MBC champions again

As long as their has been a Middle Border Conference for hockey, the championship of the conference has been the private domain of the New Richmond Tigers.

And the reign continues.

The Tigers locked up the 2010-11 championship by pummeling Baldwin-Woodville 9-2 at the New Richmond Sports Center last Thursday.

This is the ninth year that the MBC boys hockey conference has existed. The Tigers have been conference champions all nine years, sharing one title and winning the rest outright.

The win over Baldwin-Woodville was the Tigers' seventh straight. It was a good example of how the Tigers are continuing to play strongly through all three periods of their games.

In each period, the Tigers scored three times. The first Tiger goal came six seconds after B-W had been called for a penalty. Zach Kier chased down a puck behind the B-W net. He slid a pass toward the front of the net, where Jones one-timed it into the upper corner of the net.

Leavens accounted for the next two goals. One of the goals was a pure hustle play, where Leavens forced a turnover while backchecking on a penalty kill. His first shot was stopped, but he kept digging and was able to force a rebound into the net.

Parker Olson, Jarek Manske and Jones scored in the second period. Austin Zywiec started the scoring in the third period, before Olson scored twice to get his first varsity hat trick.

Important week

The Tigers look like a solid choice to get the second seeding in Sunday's WIAA sectional seeding meeting after the win against River Falls. The Tigers could make an even stronger case if they can win at Somerset this Thursday. A win in that game would give the Tigers a sweep of their conference games this season.

The Tigers will also be in action next Tuesday, playing at Hudson.

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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