The players couldn't decide it on the ice. The coaches couldn't decide it in a seeding meeting.
So the decision on whether New Richmond or Superior should get the second seed in the WIAA boys hockey sectional tournament bracket was decided on the flip of a coin.
The coin flip came after a vote, and a revote, with no coaches willing to budge from their side in the 4-4 draw. Even after the coin flip, New Richmond coach Adam Swanda again appealed, using a number of statistics showing how the Tigers had done better against common opponents than Superior. But again, no coach on either side of the argument would change their vote, meaning the coin flip that was done by the Superior athletic director stands as the final decision in the seeding process.
What does this all mean? New Richmond will be the third seed and Superior will be the second seed in the tournament bracket. Both teams will play their first tournament game on Thursday, Feb 15. New Richmond will host Menomonie, the sixth seed, at 7:30 p.m. Superior will host the winner of the Feb. 13 game between River Falls and Grantsburg. If New Richmond and Superior win those games, they would meet in the sectional semifinal game that will be played on Tuesday, Feb.20. Superior, by virtue of the second seed, would host that game.
Both teams had their chances to settle this argument last Tuesday at the New Richmond Sports Center. Superior led 2-0 early. The Tigers answered with four straight goals. Superior scored twice late in the second period. The third period and overtime went scoreless, leaving the two teams deadlocked.
Swanda said the tie left the Tigers aching, knowing they would have to fight the Superior reputation in the seeding meeting. Swanda said the fact that Superior is 1-6-2 in 2018, while the Tigers are 6-2-1, wasn't enough to sway the coaches who voted for Superior.
After Superior took the 2-0 lead, Tiger senior defenseman Mikah Kier scored with 22 seconds left in the first period. That goal seemed to settle the Tigers. In the second period, junior Hayden Bradbury stepped to the spotlight, scoring three straight goals for his first varsity hat trick.
"He's a good little hockey player. I thought he played exceptionally well," Swanda said of Bradbury.
Late in the second period, Superior scored 34 seconds apart to tie the game.
"The third period was a cat-and-mouse game," Swanda said. "Superior had better chances in the third and we had better chances in the overtime."
Both teams had shots hit the crossbar in overtime, but neither could get the winning goal.
The Tigers had to try to bounce back Thursday against Baldwin-Woodville. The Tigers won 5-2 to lock up the Middle Border Conference championship.
This game hinged on a skirmish at the end of the second period where B-W had two players thrown out of the game. B-W led 2-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining, but the Tigers made an amazing push in the final minutes to take the win away from the Hawks.
That charge was started by senior Nick Johnson. While killing a penalty, Johnson got the puck in the B-W zone and skated around several Hawks. He unloaded a sizzling shot that went over the goalie's far shoulder and into the upper corner of the net. That outstanding individual effort lifted the Tigers' spirits.
With 4:15 left, Blake Kretovics scored the go-ahead goal on a feed from Jens Christensen. Brady Werner scored with 3:26 remaining and Christensen finished the scoring with an empty net goal.
The schedule for the week got even more challenging when the Tigers added a game at Shattuck-St. Mary on Saturday. The Tigers lost 5-1, with Kretovics scoring the team's only goal.
The Tigers complete their regular season this weekend with a tournament at Wisconsin Rapids. The Tigers will face Wisconsin Rapids on Friday and West Salem on Saturday.