The battle between the undefeated New Richmond and Eau Claire Memorial boys hockey teams was decided on an overtime penalty shot.
The Tigers were called for a controversial delay of game penalty late in the overtime. Memorial's Brendan Olson was able to score on the penalty shot, giving the Old Abes a 3-2 win over the Tigers at Eau Claire's Hobbs Ice Arena last Thursday.
The controversial penalty came with 12 seconds left in the overtime when it appeared the Old Abes had scored a goal. The goal had been knocked off its supports accidentally by Tiger goalie Jake Erickson as he shifted in an attempt to block the shot.
"The ref determined that on an imminent goal it's a penalty shot," explained Tiger coach Adam Swanda. Swanda said it was the right call, but he does not like the rule. "I don't think an unintentional net-off should be a penalty shot. That should be to the discretion of the official making the call."
Memorial is the second-ranked team in Wisconsin. Swanda said this game should give the Tigers a sense of the team's ability.
"I think it was a bit of an eye-opener, especially for some of the younger kids. It's maybe a bit of a confidence boost," Swanda said.
The Tigers scored first, with senior Nick Johnson netting the only goal of the first period. Dane Swanda delivered a breakout pass to Johnson, who blew past a Memorial defenseman. He then beat Eau Claire goalie Trevor Hudecek to his blocker side.
Eau Claire tied the game six minutes into the second period, but the Tigers got the lead back five minutes later on a goal from senior Noah Towberman, his fourth of the season. Eau Claire tied the game midway through the third period.
Both teams had numerous scoring chances, with several shots clanging off crossbars and posts during the game. Erickson also stopped 53 shots between the pipes for the Tigers.
"I was pleased with how our team played," Coach Swanda said. "We're an unranked team and went into the Memorial rink and played right with them."
This was the second game against a Big Rivers Conference team last week. Last Tuesday the Tigers played at Menomonie, winning 10-0 against the Mustangs.
The Tigers had a sluggish start, but got rolling late in the first period. The Tigers led 5-0 after the first period and 9-0 after the second period. Johnson had a big night, with three goals and three assists. Eric Langer also bagged three goals, with Mikah Kier scoring twice.
Coach Swanda said the goal he liked best from the game came in the final seconds of the first period. A faceoff was held with nine seconds left. The faceoff was won to Cole Thomas, who quickly got the puck to Langer, whose shot slid past the goal line just as the buzzer sounded.
The Tiger power play got plenty of work in this game and it looked good, producing four power play goals.
Erickson got the shutout in goal for the Tigers. The Tiger regulars hadn't given up a 5-on-5 goal through this game.
"We want to be known as a defensively strong team, from the net out," Coach Swanda said.
The Tigers will make their annual trip to Rochester, Minn. to play in the annual Kiwanis tournament. The first game for the Tigers comes at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 27, when they face Irondale, Minn.