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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Playoff hockey started early for the New Richmond boys this year. With the New Richmond and River Falls boys battling for the second seed in the WIAA sectional tournament bracket, Monday's game at the New Richmond Sports Center had all the excitement and intensity you could want from a tournament game. The game was deadlocked at 2-2 at the end of regulation. New Richmond junior Maxwell Skatrud banged home the game-winner at the 2:38 mark into overtime, giving the Tigers their eighth straight win. This was a noteworthy week for the Tigers.
Two of the bottom teams in the Middle Border Conference hoped to spring surprises on the New Richmond boys basketball team. The Tigers didn't let that happen. They scored a 51-34 win at Durand last Tuesday, which was followed by a 63-43 home-court win over Somerset last Friday. The wins raise the Tigers' record to 8-0 in conference play and they began the week with a 14-0 overall record. While Durand and Somerset are both 1-7 in conference games, it wasn't hard for Tiger coach Rick Montreal to motivate the boys for Tuesday's game at Durand.
The sole leader in the tightly packed Middle Border Conference girls basketball race is Somerset. The Spartan girls went to Durand and knocked off the defending MBC champions 43-41. The win raised Somerset to 5-1 in the conference standings. Prescott, Osceola and Durand are all right on the Spartans' heels, with two losses each. Friday's win at Durand was a tale of two halves.
New Richmond's wrestlers finished with a 6-1 dual meet record this season in the Middle Border Conference. The Tigers finished their dual meet schedule by winning at Baldwin-Woodville 56-20 last Thursday. After completing their dual meet schedule, the Tigers have a lengthy span to practice before competing in this Saturday's Middle Border Conference Wrestling Meet. The MBC meet will be wrestled in Ellsworth. Tiger coach Mark Neumann said the coaches have specific plans for this long span between meets. "We will definitely try to refine things," Neumann said.
The push is on to get the wrestlers prepped for the Middle Border Conference meet after the Somerset wrestlers completed their dual meet schedule last Thursday. The final dual match came against one of the Spartans' oldest rivals, Osceola. The Spartans put up a good fight, but took a 48-29 loss. This leaves them with a 2-5 final record in MBC dual matches. Somerset and Osceola each won four matches in the eight matches that were wrestled on Thursday.
The defense played by the New Richmond girls basketball team is good enough to win nearly any game they play in the Middle Border Conference. But those wins won't come until the Tigers are more productive on offense and rebound better than they did in a pair of losses last week. The Tigers had chances to defeat Amery last Tuesday. The Tigers were burned by a steady stream of Amery offensive rebound baskets, which carried the Warriors to a 34-28 win over the Tigers. The lack of height on the Tiger varsity roster doomed them when they played at Osceola last Friday.
The offense came to life in the second half on Monday and it carried the St. Croix Panthers to a huge comeback victory. The Panthers trailed Glenwood City 25-14 at halftime. The Panther offense got rolling and they took the lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Panthers then held on to score a 38-37 win over the Hilltoppers. The win leaves the Panthers in a tie with Boyceville for third place in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference standings with a 7-3 record.
Somerset's boys basketball team nearly took down one of the top teams in the Lakeland Conference on Monday night. The Spartans went toe-to-toe with Grantsburg until the final moments of Monday's game. Grantsburg hit late free throws to pull away to a 63-53 win over the Spartans. Grantsburg is currently 13-3 and in second place in the West Lakeland Conference. Somerset is now 2-12 with a 1-7 record in the Middle Border Conference. Monday's game started badly for the Spartans, with Grantsburg taking a 14-4 lead in the first quarter.
If the St. Croix Central boys turn their season around in February, Panther coach Mike Fern will point to Saturday's loss at Ellsworth as the turning point. The 49-40 loss at Ellsworth was the seventh straight loss for Central, which saw its season record drop to 6-10. Still, Fern came out of Saturday's game quite optimistic that better things are just around the corner for the Panthers. Central led for much of Saturday's game against an Ellsworth team that is a contender in the Middle Border Conference.
Again, the New Richmond girls skaters battled evenly with a top tier opponent for much of their game. This time it was the Tigers facing the Eau Claire Area Stars at Hobbs Ice Arena in Eau Claire last Thursday. The Tigers and Stars battled evenly until the final seven minutes of the game. In those final seven minutes the Stars scored three times to beat the Tigers, 4-1. The loss leaves the Tigers with an 8-11-1 record. The seeding for the WIAA girls hockey sectional tournament will be determined this Sunday.