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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Heading into Thursday's WIAA tournament opener, the New Richmond boys hockey team is solidly locked into playoff mode. Last Friday and Saturday the Tigers played in a tournament in Rhinelander. The Tigers won the championship, earning the "Golden Hodag" trophy. The weekend away locked the Tigers into a playoff focus, both on and off the ice. The team was able to have concentrated time together, having fun while also focusing on hockey. Several players gave themselves arrowhead haircuts.
There are two ways to look at New Richmond's 41-39 non-conference boys basketball loss at River Falls on Monday night. You could view it that the Tigers put up a big battle against the 16-4 Wildcats, who are in second place in the Big Rivers Conference. Tiger coach Rick Montreal prefers to look at this game as a win that got away. "I'm in the minority. I expect to win those games," Montreal said. For nearly three quarters, this was a one-possession game.
New Richmond was able to advance seven wrestlers into this Saturday's WIAA Division 1 Merrill Sectional Meet. Now comes the hard part. With two wrestlers from each sectional weight class qualifying for state, every one of the Tigers competing in the sectional will have a challenging path to get to the state meet. Leading the Tigers into the sectional tournament will be junior Tanner Turany, New Richmond's lone champion in last Saturday's River Falls Division 1 regional tournament.
The sighs of relief emanated from Ellsworth, but could be heard quite clearly in Somerset last Tuesday. The Somerset boys basketball team snapped a nine-game losing streak by winning at Ellsworth that night, 69-57. This was the Spartans' second win in Middle Border Conference action, both of them coming against Ellsworth. This was the first win for the Spartans since four seniors were released from the team in early January. The team now has a 4-15 overall record. The win at Ellsworth didn't come easily for the Spartans.
Zack Gillis will have some company at sectionals this year. The St. Croix Central senior standout will have three of his wrestling teammates joining him in Saturday's WIAA Division 3 wrestling sectional tournament, which will be held at Osseo-Fairchild High School. Joining Gillis at the sectional tournament will be sophomore Matt Smith and freshmen Carl Moll and Cody Nyhagen. Gillis is trying to return to state. He advances as a regional champion.
Sophomore Haydon Dvorak and freshman Gabe Flandrick will get to wrestle in front of their home crowd this Saturday at the 2010 WIAA Division 2 Somerset Sectional Wrestling Tournament. Dvorak and Flandrick earned that honor after winning their weight class in last Saturday's Division 2 regional tournament held at Frederic High School. Flandrick brings a 33-3 record into the sectional tournament and Dvorak's record now stands at 28-6. Both wrestlers have been on fire since the start of 2010.
Valentine's Day of 2008 will stand out as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the New Richmond girls hockey team. This Thursday, the Tigers will try to recapture the magic that they produced in 2008. The Tigers upset Hudson 2-1 in the WIAA tournament game in 2008. The situation for this Thursday's game is quite similar to the setting for the 2008 Tiger victory. The Tigers were the underdog that year.
Close games are nothing new for the New Richmond girls basketball team and Thursday's game at Somerset was the closest of the season. From beginning to end this game was close. But, as the Tigers' luck has been this season, they came out on the losing side of the score, falling to the Spartans 51-50. Friday's game was the first time in more than a month that the Tigers had their full roster available. Senior center Kim Bethke was in the starting lineup for the first time since breaking her finger on Jan. 7.
Somerset coach Kendrick Livers warned his girls that they were going to get New Richmond's best effort. He was right. The Spartans were able to withstand a spirited effort from the Tigers, scoring a 51-50 win in Middle Border Conference play last Thursday. This was an incredibly close game, where there was rarely larger than a two-point lead. New Richmond held the biggest lead of the game at 44-37 midway through the fourth quarter.
A win over Elmwood on Friday earned the St. Croix Central boys basketball team a share of the 2009-10 Dunn-St. Croix Conference title. A win at Colfax this Friday would give the Panthers undisputed rights to the conference championship. Central started the week with a 12-1 conference record, while Colfax stood at 10-3. The Panthers are coming off a pair of one-sided victories at the end of last week. On Thursday they routed Plum City 78-43. A night later the Panthers pounced on Elmwood, 63-38. In each of the wins 11 different Panthers were able to work their way into the scoring column.