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Tiger hockey shows that experience matters

Having the experience of playing in three straight sectional championship games showed for the New Richmond boys hockey team in its 2008 tournament opener on Friday.

New Richmond jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and was able to maintain the lead in beating the Burnett County Blizzard 6-1.

The win raises the Tigers' season record to 9-11-1. It also advanced them into Tuesday's sectional semifinals against Superior, the defending WIAA state champions. The winner of Tuesday's game will qualify for the sectional championship game, which will be played at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Hudson Ice Arena in Hudson. The opponent in that game will be the winner of Tuesday's game between Hudson and River Falls.

The sectional champion will move on to the 2008 WIAA State Championships, which will begin on Thursday, Feb. 28.

New Richmond coach Adam Swanda conceded that the Tigers were underdogs heading into Tuesday's game at Superior, but that doesn't mean Swanda didn't have a plan. Swanda used a comparison to volleyball to explain his approach to the game. He said instead of going for the bump, set, spike type of attack, they are going to continue to dump the puck back into Superior's zone and hope they can take advantage of the Spartans' mistakes.

In the win over Webster, the Tigers had a plan that worked well, especially in the early stages of the game. The Tigers played with the intensity necessary to be successful in a playoff game.

"Our playoff experience compared to theirs is light years apart," Swanda said.

The Tigers came out attacking the body hard and the Blizzard was taken aback by the physical play. The Tigers were looking to set up their offense from faceoffs and they did exactly that. Two of their first period goals came off faceoffs.

Joe Bowar got the Tigers' first goal of the game three minutes into the game, after a faceoff win by Jake Bellows. The Tigers scored again at the 6:45 mark, when Jared Singerhouse redirected an Eric Wergin shot past Blizzard goalie Mike Billings. The next faceoff goal came 11 minutes into the game, when Calvin Hanson scored after a faceoff win by Aaron Pflueger. Pflueger had a big night, assisting on four of the Tiger goals.

After a scoreless second period, the Blizzard scored early in the third period. The Tigers responded quickly, with Dan Shilts getting the goal. Bowar and Singerhouse each netted their second goal in the final minutes of the game.

Swanda said the Tigers did some things well in the game, but they also had areas where the team needed work. "Atrocious" was his word for the performance of the Tigers' power play.

New Richmond 6, Blizzard 1

First Period: 1. NR, Joe Bowar (Jared Ellevold, Jake Bellows) 3:09. 2. NR, Jared Singerhouse (Eric Wergin, Zach Olson) 6:45. 3. NR, Calvin Hanson (Dan Shilts, Aaron Pflueger) 11:05.

Second Period: No scoring.

Third Period: 4. Webster, Robbie Billings (Dave Harlander) 3:14. 5. NR, Shilts (Pflueger) 7:08. 6. NR, Bowar (Pflueger, Ellevold) 14:02. 7. NR, Singerhouse (Pflueger) 16:02.

Saves: New Richmond (Tanner Milliron) 23; Webster (Mike Billings) 17.

Dave Newman

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 more than 30 years.

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