Tigers prep for sectional showdowns
Home ice has never looked so good to the New Richmond boys hockey team.
After playing for more than a month of non-stop road games, the Tigers start a stretch of three straight home games Friday, Jan. 19.
The Tigers will host Neenah on Friday at 7 p.m. and Hayward at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Tigers will also play at home next Tuesday against Somerset.
Those three games are the final prep work for the Tigers as they get ready for the games that will decide the top seeds in the WIAA sectional tournament bracket. The Tigers will play at Hudson on Thursday, Jan. 25. The next Tiger outing will be a home game against Superior on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
The battle for the top spot in the sectional bracket is the usual three-team race between Hudson, Superior and New Richmond. Hudson is currently 14-0, Superior is 11-4-1 and New Richmond is 11-2 at the start of this week.
The Tigers are coming off a 3-1 win at Amery last Thursday. The win lifts the Tigers' record in the Middle Border Conference to 5-0 while Amery stands now at 2-3 in the MBC.
This was a game the Tigers put away early, with three goals in the first period. All three of the goals came off faceoffs.
"That's been a little of our focus," Tiger coach Adam Swanda said of the faceoff plays. "Those are key elements of our success down the stretch."
The first of those goals was scored by senior Dane Swanda 5:08 into the action. Senior Eric Langer scored his team-leading 22nd goal four minutes later. Junior Gabe Bottolfson scored in his second straight game, getting his second career goal, with 3:15 left in the opening period.
The Tigers outshot Amery 21-5 in the first period. Amery outshot the Tigers 11-10 in the second period. The Warriors got their only goal of the night with 4:45 left in the second period.
"We had a little bit of a relaxation in the second period," Coach Swanda said, clearly not pleased that the team's level of intensity dropped off that far.
The Tigers did bounce back effectively in the third period, outshooting the Warriors 18-5.
Junior Jake Erickson stopped 17 of the 18 shots in goal for his 11th win of the season for the Tigers.
The Tigers put 49 shots on goal in the game. Coach Swanda said the shot total was nice, but too many of the shots were aimed directly at the chest of the Amery goaltender. Amery was limited to 18 total shots. Swanda said only two of those were major scoring threats, another sign the Tigers are getting their defense where it needs to be.
"I like to be a defensive team where we're not giving up a lot of shots," Swanda said.