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Double the overtime, double the agony for New Richmond boys hockey

New Richmond’s Noah Towberman (15) celebrates a game-tying goal in the third period of the Tigers' double overtime loss to the Spartans in Superior last Tuesday. Jed Carlson / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
New Richmond’s Jake Erickson (30) stops a shot in the second period of the Tigers' double overtime loss in Superior last Tuesday.2 / 2

One of the largest and most talented senior classes in New Richmond hockey history won't get to play in a WIAA state championship tournament.

The 16 seniors in the New Richmond boys hockey program saw their final hope for a state tournament visit extinguished in an agonizing double-overtime loss to Superior in the sectional semifinals last Tuesday. Superior scored at the 71:04 mark to knock the Tigers out of the tournament, 4-3. Superior was defeated by Hudson in Saturday's sectional championship game, 4-1. Hudson will face St. Mary's Springs at 10 a.m. on Thursday in the opening round of the WIAA state championships.

New Richmond and Superior have waged many closely fought games in past playoff seasons and this was another in that colorful history. Both teams held the lead during the game, but at the end of regulation the score stood at 3-3.

New Richmond senior Eric Langer scored the only goal of the first period, getting on the board 11:40 into the period. The goal was a team-leading 33rd of the season for Langer.

The lead grew to 2-0 when Jens Christensen scored 7:04 into the second period. Christensen's goal was created when Hayden Bradbury delivered a crushing hit that separated a Superior player from the puck.

Superior started its comeback when Trevor Dalbec scored with 2:33 left in the second period. Superior's Gunnar Hansen scored twice, 1:38 apart, to give Superior the lead early in the third period.

This game had numerous penalties. The Tigers took advantage to tie the game. Senior Noah Towberman got the power play goal off assists from Langer and Chris Lubow, tying the score with 5:25 elapsed in the third period.

The Tigers had their chances late in regulation. Superior took two penalties, 45 seconds apart, giving the Tigers a 5-on-3 situation for more than a minute.

"We knew we'd have opportunities to win the game on special teams. In my experience of playing (Superior), we typically have a 5-on-3 chance," Swanda said, saying the team practiced its 5-on-3 power play during the week for the occurence.

While both teams had some chances in the overtimes, both teams played cautiously, not wanting to make a critical mistake. Superior scored the game-winner on a broken play on a puck dumped into the Tiger zone. Tiger goaltender Jake Erickson came out to play the puck, but it took a bad bounce and Superior's Ian Johnson was able to grab the puck and score.

Swanda said Erickson played extremely well all season in goal for the Tigers. He stopped 35 shots in this game, ending the season with a 92.3 save percentage.

Injuries have been a main story line for the Tigers all season. Lubow, the team's most creative offensive defenseman, was cleared the night before the game. He'd missed the previous three weeks with a broken hand. Swanda said there were two days all season when the Tigers had every player available to practice because of the rampant injuries and illness during the season. Still, the team was able to amass a 18-5-1 record.

Swanda, whose son Dane is part of the senior group, was wistful over the end of the season and era in Tiger hockey.

"This is a group we've watched grow from five, six, seven years of age. My hope for that group was to play in the Saturday (sectional final) game," he said. "It's a tough group to say goodbye to."

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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