Now is the time.
If the New Richmond boys hockey team wants to be the top seed in the WIAA sectional bracket, the Tigers need to produce now. The Tigers play at Hudson this Thursday, Jan. 25. The Raiders are undefeated and are the top-ranked boys team in the state. For the Tigers to get the bracket's top seed, they will have to knock off the Raiders.
And their work isn't done. Also waiting ahead of the Tigers is Superior, the fifth-ranked team in the state and another resident of this sectional bracket. The Tigers host Superior next Tuesday. They will need a win Tuesday to likely end up ahead of Superior in the sectional pairings. And those tournaments aren't that far away. The first games in the boys WIAA playoffs will be played on Tuesday, Feb. 13.
The Tigers are currently 13-3, coming off a week where they won twice, but lost to another state-ranked team. The loss came on Friday in a 5-1 setback against Neenah. It was the Tigers' first home game in more than a month, but it was not the performance the team was hoping for in its return.
Neenah scored 17 seconds into the game and again at the 1:57 mark. If you think that start angered Tiger coach Adam Swanda, you know him pretty well.
"I was incredibly disappointed with our readiness for the game," Swanda said. "We haven't been home for five weeks and you're flat? It was our most disappointing effort and our biggest loss of the year."
What most irked Swanda was the fact that the Tigers have 16 seniors, while Neenah plays just three.
"So our guys were getting outplayed by underclassmen," Swanda said.
The only Tiger goal was scored by senior Eric Langer 10:29 into the first period. The Tigers outshot Neenah 33-29, but that was mainly due to the Tigers holding a 16-6 shot edge in the third period.
Part of the reason Swanda was so perturbed about the Neenah performance was because of how the Tigers played in their previous game, an 8-1 win at Eau Claire Regis.
"We went with four lines from the start and it was our most well-rounded game. I was really pleased with how everyone played," Swanda said.
Langer and Nick Johnson both scored twice to lead the Tigers. Noah Towberman, Dane Swanda, Hayden Bradbury and Garrett Thomas each scored once. The Tigers outshot Regis, 61-11.
The Tigers finished the week with a 4-1 home ice win over Hayward on Saturday. The Tigers took charge of this game almost immediately. The Tigers controlled the opening faceoff, getting the puck up to Johnson for a hard shot. That shot was blocked, but it produced a juicy rebound. Senior Blake Kretovics was trailing the play and he had a vacated goal to shoot into, scoring 13 seconds into the game.
The Tigers scored again in the first period, on a finely done piece of penalty killing, with Langer getting the goal on an assist from Kretovics. Langer scored again in the third period, as did Brady Werner. Hayward ended the shutout bid by Tiger goalie Jake Erickson by scoring with 18 seconds left in the game.