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Time for New Richmond boys hockey to take off

New Richmond defenseman Austin Zywiec (2) skates around a Baldwin-Woodville defender in last Tuesday's game. Zywiec scored two goals for the Tigers against Monona Grove on Saturday.

This has been a season during which the New Richmond boys hockey team hasn't been able to pull all its facets together for an extended stretch of success.

But the season isn't over. The Tigers begin the WIAA tournament series with a home game this Thursday against Amery. A strong run in the playoffs could quickly help the Tigers forget the frustrations of an uneven season.

The Tigers are the fourth seed in the WIAA hockey sectional, giving them home ice in Thursday's 7 p.m. game against Amery, the fifth seed. The winner of Thursday's game will advance to the sectional semifinals, which will likely mean a game next Tuesday at Superior.

The Tigers have hovered around the .500 level all season, with different issues popping up all season to rein in their progress. Over the weekend the Tigers played a pair of games in the Milwaukee area and the offense put up some of its best performances of the season. But as the offense gave hope, the Tigers struggled in the defensive end. The Tigers lost to Whitefish Bay on Friday 5-3, and that was followed by an 8-6 setback against Monona Grove on Saturday. The 13 goals are the most the Tigers have surrendered in consecutive games this season.

"We're finally getting healthy and getting some consistency up front," said Tiger coach Adam Swanda of the team's improving offense.

With the offense moving in the right direction, the team is hoping to make rapid improvement at the defensive end of the ice. Swanda said he is working with senior goalie Aaron Chwialkowski, trying to have him play more "challenging and athletic," like he was earlier in the season.

The Tigers make the trip to Milwaukee every year because they find good opposition, along with the trip providing a chance to build team unity. Swanda said Whitefish Bay was a team very similar to Hudson, while Monona Grove possesses one of the highest scoring lines in the state.

The Tiger coaches are still trying new line combinations, looking for the right combination that will get the offense clicking. The top line for Friday was the Wisemiller brothers, Tanner and Maxx, along with winger Jeremy Leavens. They produced all three goals, with Leavens scoring twice. Swanda said they also forechecked extremely well together, rarely letting Whitefish Bay clear the puck out of its zone.

Saturday's game with Monona Grove evolved into an old-fashioned shootout. The Tigers led through much of the game, but Monona Grove scored four of the final five goals to pull ahead.

While it wasn't a defensive gem, Saturday's game gave reason to be encouraged with the Tiger offense. Austin Zywiec scored a pair of goals, and Leavens, Michael Bodsberg, Nick Lubow and Josh Manske each netted one goal.

Most encouraging from the weekend games was the Tigers' shot totals. The Tigers put 52 shots on goal against Monona Grove. That came after peppering the Whitefish Bay goalie with 38 shots.

The Tigers finished their Middle Border Conference season last Tuesday, with a 7-0 home ice win over Baldwin-Woodville. The win moved New Richmond into second place in the final MBC standings, with the Eau Claire Regis co-op team winning this year's title.

Adam Dilley made his first varsity start for the Tigers against Baldwin-Woodville, recording the shutout in the win.

Scoring goals for the Tigers were Tanner Wisemiller (2), Jarek Manske, Tyler Lagerstrom, Michael Bodsberg, Ben Werner and Brady Maus.