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New Richmond girls hockey braces for playoff trip to Hayward

Senior captain Tiffany Olek (6) scored the only goal for the Tigers in their 4-1 loss to Superior on Saturday.

A demanding stretch of games at the end of the regular season leads into a daunting playoff opener for the New Richmond girls hockey team.

The Tigers, who start the week with a 4-13 record, open WIAA tournament play at 7 p.m. this Thursday with a game at Hayward. Hayward is the top seed in the sectional tournament bracket while New Richmond is the eighth seed. The winner of Thursday's game will advance to the sectional semifinals, which will be played next Tuesday against the winner of Thursday's game between the Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls cooperative teams.

Facing top seeds isn't unusual for the Tigers. On Friday the Tigers played host to Onalaska, which is the top-seeded team in Section 3 of the state brackets. Onalaska scored five times in the first period, leading to a 7-0 defeat for the Tigers.

Onalaska is led by one of the most prolific scorers in the state, Theresa Knutson. She scored three of Onalaska's first period goals.

After Onalaska's hot start, the Tigers made it a much more competitive game in the final two periods. The Tigers outshot Onalaska in the third period.

"In the second and third periods we buckled down and played our game," said Tiger coach Emily Dabrowski. "The girls really did skate hard."

The Tigers turned right around and hosted Superior on Saturday afternoon. The game was close the entire way, with Superior scoring twice in the final 5:11 of the game to edge the Tigers 4-1.

Being tired from the Friday night game showed in the Tigers' play in the first period, when they were outshot 10-2. Superior's Sadey Laurvick netted the only goal of the first period.

The Tigers were much more energetic in the second period, outshooting the Spartans 12-9. Each team scored once in the period. The Tigers' goal came when Alli Wielinski passed to Tiffany Olek, who was making a hard cut down the slot, and Olek snapped her shot past Superior goalie Justine Stenberg. The goal came on a power play.

Both teams gave big efforts in the third period, trying to capture the win. Superior was able to cash in with the two late goals.

"We had so many chances in the second and third periods," Dabrowski said. She said the intense rate of games and low number of available players sapped all her players' energy. "We go into the locker room (between periods) and they just sink in their stalls."