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New Richmond girls hockey players go from sickbeds to skates

New Richmond sophomore Bailey Erickson (2) scored the Tigers' only goal in last Thursday's game against Woodbury.

For much of last Thursday's New Richmond girls hockey game, playing time was decided by who could breathe the best.

The Tigers have been ravaged by a vicious respiratory bug that caused them to postpone their game last Tuesday against Eau Claire. Only seven of the 18 girls on the roster were healthy enough to skate that night.

Two nights later the Tigers did play. Six players were too sick to attend the game. Several others did play, but the coughing and wheezing coming from the bench area were indications that they were nowhere near full health. The Tigers lost to Woodbury (Minn.) by an 8-1 score, but the score doesn't tell a fair story of the Tigers' efforts.

Tiger coach Emily Dabrowski said the coaches were amazed at the willingness of the girls to take their shifts when they were physically spent. Because the Tigers were so limited in their line options, girls ended up playing positions they've never played before. Four of the girls who played hadn't skated in a week or more because of illness.

"We have never been more proud. They skated their hearts out," Dabrowski said.

She said the line shifts were determined on "who could breathe the best. We just kept rotating in the three that could breathe best at the time."

For the first five minutes of the period of the game, the Tigers skated cautiously as they tested their energy levels. Unfortunately, Woodbury built up a 3-0 lead in that time. From that point on, shots and scoring chances were nearly even. Dabrowski said there were several times when Tigers had chances for close range shots, but the girls were so physically exhausted that their arms "were paralyzed."

The Tigers got their goal at the 11:19 mark of the third period. Sophomore Bailey Erickson fired a shot from just inside the blue line that cleanly beat the Woodbury goaltender. Emilee Wolf assisted on the goal.

Woodbury is coached by Chris Lepper, the father of Tiger player Emma Lepper.

The Tiger coaches gave the team the day off on Friday, with orders to rest and to sanitize all their equipment.

"We've got to get healthy. We've got a heavy schedule from here on out," Dabrowski said.

The Tigers have two road games scheduled in the upcoming days. They will face the St. Croix Valley Fusion on Saturday, with the game scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Baldwin rink. The Tigers will play at 5 p.m. next Tuesday in a game against Chippewa Falls at the Dunn County Ice Arena.