The high aspirations that surrounded the New Richmond boys hockey team at the start of the season have all but disappeared.
It's now the job of the Tiger coaching staff to rebuild the team's confidence and get it turned back in the right direction. The Tigers are in a full-scale freefall after losing to winless Amery 4-3 at the New Richmond Sports Center last Tuesday. It's the Tigers' second straight loss in Middle Border Conference play.
The Tigers played the game without leading scorers Nate Jones and Parker Olson, but Tiger coach Adam Swanda refused to use the absence of two first liners as an excuse. Amery was 0-6-2 heading into the game and had been outscored 24-6 in its previous five games.
The loss leaves the Tigers with a 3-5 record, a far cry from the expectations of a team that was ranked in the top 10 in the state to begin the season. Swanda said the coaches are having difficulties getting the players to adapt to the style that the coaches feel will be most successful for the team.
"If they want to play to the demands and confines of what we preach, they'll see a different result," Swanda said. "Our lack of discipline has cost us every single one of our losses."
Special teams continue to riddle the Tigers. Amery scored the only power play goal of the night, while the Tigers couldn't make anything out of four Amery penalties.
"We had a five-on-three for 1:40 and we got one shot. What can you do?" Swanda asked out of frustration.
The production of the offense was so poor that the coaches moved junior defenseman Austin Zywiec up to forward to play wing on the first line.
The problems weren't just on the offensive end. The Tigers gave Amery standout Jake Mullendore open ice to skate through all night. It cost them the game. Mullendore scored three of the four Amery goals and he set up the other, with a pass to the slot that was tipped in by Kyle Sorensen for the final goal of the night late in the second period.
The Tigers had glimmers of offensive success, but it was sporadic. The Tigers scored their first goal when Tyler Lagerstrom centered a pass along the goal line and Dylan Cox chipped it over the Amery goalie and into the net.
The other two Tiger goals were scored by defensemen. Kyle Montgomery tied the game at 2-2 with 1:20 left in the first period. He carried the puck into the offensive end and drove to the net, firing a hard shot through traffic.
Zywiec put the Tigers ahead 3-2 by scoring 34 seconds later. The Tigers, using a spark from Montgomery's goal, did some nice cycling of the puck in the Amery end. They got the puck out to Zywiec and he used screens in front of the net to get his shot through the traffic.
The Tigers showed some desperation late in the third period, but couldn't get a puck past Amery goalie Reed Sorensen. The Tigers outshot Amery 13-1 in the final period. The Tigers had a 37-19 shot advantage for the game.
This week the Tigers play three games in the annual Rochester tournament, starting out with a contest at 8 p.m. on Wednesday against Rochester Century. The Tigers begin the 2012 section of their schedule with a game at Rice Lake next Tuesday.
Swanda said every problem the Tigers are currently having can be resolved, but it will take a major commitment from the players to fix them.
"Everything is fixable, once the kids make the decision, as a collective group, that they want to move in that direction," Swanda said.