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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The New Richmond and Somerset boys hockey teams both registered impressive wins on Tuesday night. So did the Somerset boys basketball team. Boys hockey New Richmond's boys hockey team put together its most impressive performance of the past several weeks, slamming Big Rivers Conference co-leader Rice Lake, 7-1. The game was played in Rice Lake. Austin Zywiec scored the first two Tiger goals and Nate Jones also scored twice. Somerset's boys added to their lead in the Middle Border Conference by thumping Baldwin-Woodville 8-1 on the Spartans' ice.
One of the biggest surprises around the Middle Border Conference this winter has been the hot start of the New Richmond girls basketball team. The Tigers took over sole leadership of the MBC by defeating Baldwin-Woodville last Tuesday, 45-43. The Tigers are 3-0 in the conference and all three wins have been by two-point margins. The Tigers are 3-3 overall. A difference in the Tigers this season is they are finding a way to win the close games, where in past seasons they had trouble winning them. Against B-W, the Tigers built a 28-19 halftime lead.
Getting swept up in the excitement of their first major battle as Middle Border Conference contenders put the New Richmond boys basketball team in a bad spot in the opening minutes of Thursday's game at Baldwin-Woodville. B-W took an 11-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game. Tiger coach Rick Montreal then called a timeout, giving the Tigers a minute to regain their composure. He also changed defensive schemes and the Tigers quickly found a comfort level.
Same opponent, same result. There wasn't much difference when the St. Croix Central wrestling team faced the same opponent five days apart. The Panthers wrestled the co-op team from Luck-Frederic-Grantsburg for the second time in five days last Thursday. The results were largely the same, with the Panthers scoring a 52-26 win. The match was wrestled in the SCC Middle School gym. Wrestling in the middle school gym brought back memories for Panther coach Brad Holzer.
How's this for a nightmare week? The New Richmond girls hockey team started last week by playing Onalaska, the top-ranked girls program in Wisconsin. They finished the week by facing the defending WIAA state champions, the third-ranked St. Croix Valley Fusion. And the Tigers played both games without leading scorer Paige Charland, who is on the shelf with a knee injury. The Tigers were defeated in both games, lowering their season record to 2-7. The Tigers lost to Onalaska 6-0 on Tuesday and 7-0 to the Fusion on Thursday.
Wrestling fans who attended Thursday's double-dual in New Richmond got to see wrestlers of every experience level competing. The Tigers faced Park of Cottage Grove (Minn.) and Chippewa Falls in the two duals. There were wrestlers with very little varsity experience, all the way up to WIAA state champions, competing in Thursday's matches. The first opponent was Park, a team with well-seasoned wrestlers, sprinkled with a few less experienced kids. The Tigers earned pins in the first three matches to build up an 18-0 lead.
When the Somerset girls went to last week's Woodbury tournament, they knew they had about as much chance of winning against St. Paul Central as a snowball did of surviving this week's heat wave. So the Spartans took the assignment as a challenge. They may have come out of the game with a 79-32 defeat, but they developed a team-wide self-respect in the process. St. Paul Central is ranked among the top 10 large school programs in Minnesota.
The high aspirations that surrounded the New Richmond boys hockey team at the start of the season have all but disappeared. It's now the job of the Tiger coaching staff to rebuild the team's confidence and get it turned back in the right direction. The Tigers are in a full-scale freefall after losing to winless Amery 4-3 at the New Richmond Sports Center last Tuesday.
It won't go down as a win, but the St. Croix Central girls gave an impressive showing against one of the best teams in the Middle Border Conference last Thursday. The Panthers led at halftime against Prescott, holding the Cardinals to seven points in the first half. In the second half Prescott's offense began to roll and the Cards pulled away for a 34-16 win. For the Panthers, this was an encouraging performance to end the 2011 section of their schedule.
There's no question that this is the most talented Somerset boys basketball team in several years. The Spartans are finding that converting that talent into wins against the top Middle Border Conference teams will require more refinement of their skills. The Spartans lost for the second time in their first three MBC games, dropping a 47-42 decision at Prescott last Thursday. In the second quarter of Thursday's game the Spartans dug themselves into a hole that they couldn't recover from. The Spartans were limited to three points, all on free throws.