As one of the most experienced teams in the area, the New Richmond boys hockey team needs to find benefits out of games where they are playing less experienced opponents.
That was the case last week, when the Tigers won Middle Border Conference games against Amery. The Tigers rolled past Amery 10-3 Tuesday, Dec. 12 and at Somerset on Thursday, Dec. 14, by a 5-0 score.
The Tigers are working to get better with every game and every practice. The first quarter of the schedule has not been filled with challenges, but that's about to change. The Tigers will face one of the best teams in Wisconsin on Thursday when they play at Eau Claire Memorial at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Hobbs Ice Arena. That'll be followed by three good tests when the Tigers make their way to the annual Rochester (Minn.) Kiwanis tournament on Dec. 27-29.
In last Tuesday's game, the Tigers scored on their first shot against Amery, with Nick Johnson scoring 80 seconds into the game. Cole Thomas and Brady Werner also scored in the first period, with the Tigers leading 3-1 at the break.
The Tigers broke the game open by scoring five unanswered goals in the second period.
New Richmond's Eric Langer has been one of the hottest scorers in the state to start the 2017-18 season. Through the Tigers' first five games, Langer has scored 12 goals, which ties him for seventh place in the state scoring rankings. All of the players in front of Langer have played more games than the Tigers have thus far.
"Langer is carrying a hot hand," said New Richmond coach Adam Swanda. "He's playing with a bit of an edge."
Langer had four of the Tigers' goals in the second period, with Jens Christensen also scoring. Thomas and Noah Towberman scored in the third period.
With the game under control early, the Tiger coaches were able to get the younger players a great deal of ice time. With so many seniors on this season's time, getting the younger Tigers ice time is critical for the program's future.
The Tigers have played well in a number of aspects this season, but especially when 5-on-5. The Tigers had several pretty goals in the win, the product of good puck movement. Swanda said the Tigers have also played smartly in the penalty kill. These are signs the coaches were hoping to see from a team with this experience level.
"We're tight defensively and we've got some offense. All of the seniors are mature and they have experience," Swanda said.
Thursday's 5-0 win over Somerset was probably one of the tamest in the history of the rivalry. There were very few hits and very few meaningful shots until the third period. The first period was scoreless. The Tigers began to wear down the Spartans in the second period, with goals from Werner and Dane Swanda. Langer, Thomas and Johnson scored in the third period.
The Tigers outshot Somerset 42-11, but Coach Swanda wasn't pleased with the quality of the shots, saying far too many were taken from the perimeter. In the first half of the game, many of the Tigers' long shots weren't coming near the net.
Coach Swanda was complimentary of the play of starting goalie Jake Erickson. The junior goaltender has allowed two goals in his time in the Tigers' first five games. He was tested at the end of the Somerset game, when the Tigers successfully killed off a 5-on-3 situation.