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New Richmond boys hockey hopes they've found momentum

Maybe Rochester, Minn., is where momentum begins.

That's what the New Richmond boys hockey team is hoping. The Tigers earned one win and played three solid games in their annual sojourn to the Rochester tournament last week.

Other than slow starts in their two losses in the tournament, there was a definite upswing in the Tigers' performance. Their win came against Rochester John Marshall in the second round of the tournament, by a 5-2 score. The Tigers lost to Rochester Century in the opening round of the tournament. Century went on to win the tournament championship, beating Eau Claire Memorial in the title game.

In their final game of the tournament, the Tigers lost to Eastview, 4-3.

The positive progress for the Tigers began with improved health. Senior first liners Nate Jones and Parker Olson both returned to the lineup for the tournament, Jones from a knee injury and Olson from a concussion. Coach Adam Swanda said the seniors weren't at full strength, but they played progressively better through the tournament.

In both of the losses the Tigers gave their opponents 3-0 leads. And in both games, the Tigers fought back to make the games competitive. The Tigers came back against Century, cutting the margin to 4-3 early in the third period. All three Tiger goals were scored by junior Austin Zywiec, who is fitting in well with Jones and Olson on the Tigers' first line. Two of Zywiec's goals were on the power play and two were scored off plays run following faceoffs. Jones assisted on all three of Zywiec's goals.

Against John Marshall, the game was tied 2-2 after two periods. The Tigers killed off a 5-on-3 penalty in the third period, then carried that energy to the offensive end. Olson scored twice, at the 4:29 and 7:58 marks, to put the Tigers in front. Max Skatrud added an empty net goal, his second goal of the night, to finish off the win.

Junior Aaron Chwialakowski made his varsity start in goal for the Tigers against John Marshall. He stopped 35 of 37 shots to earn his first varsity win.

"He'll get some looks as we move forward," Swanda said.

The Eastview game was quite similar to the Century loss. Century had one player do most of the damage, with Hayden Ashworth finishing with three goals and three assists. It was two players who did all the damage for Eastview.

Eastview scored three times in the first 11:57 of the game. The Tigers got their goal at the 14:49 mark of the first period. Olson skated past an Eastview defenseman, then beat the goalie with a wrist shot to the blocker side.

Eastview scored at the 6:09 mark of the second period, the only tally in the final two periods.

Swanda said Eastview had probably the best goaltender the Tigers have faced this season. Jacob Hilby made 35 stops in goal for the Tigers.

The tournament leaves the Tigers with a 5-6 record. The Tigers will be back on their home ice this Friday, hosting McFarland at 7 p.m.

Swanda said the team is optimistic that it can build momentum as they head into the second half of their season.

"We're getting better and we've got some things we can build on," he said following the Rochester tournament. "The bottom line is we need to score more goals. We need the fourth through ninth forwards to get a goal or two every game."

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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