Going into its biggest game of the season, the New Richmond boys hockey team could have filled a wing of Westfields Hospital with all the illness and injuries the team was dealing with.
Undaunted, the Tigers put together an incredible effort last Tuesday, playing at undefeated Hudson, with the top seed in the WIAA sectional bracket at stake. Hudson scored with 5:30 left in the game to defeat the Tigers, 3-2.
The Tigers were without leading scorer Eric Langer, sidelined with a hand injury. Defenseman Ben Karno was ill. Seniors Dane Swanda and Blake Kretovics were limited by recent injuries. Cole Thomas and Chris Lubow were running 102 temperatures.
"Our kids had every reason to hang their heads going into the game," said Tiger coach Adam Swanda.
Instead, the Tigers played inspired hockey from the start. On the second shift of the game, New Richmond's Jens Christensen scored, stuffing home a rebound from a Brady Werner shot. It became the first time all season that Hudson trailed in a game.
The Tigers played nose-to-nose with the state's top-ranked team. And with 6:03 left in the opening period, the Tigers went ahead 2-0. Cole Thomas used a gorgeous move to create a shooting lane, scoring past Hudson goalie Alex Cohen.
Hudson got its first goal with 1:27 left in the first period. The Raiders tied the score 2:06 into the second period. The score stayed at 2-2 until Hudson scored with 5:30 remaining.
The excitement was far from over. This game was played at a fevered intensity, right to the last second. Hudson took two penalties, leaving the Tigers with a 5-on-3 power play for the last 55 seconds of the game. The Tigers had a couple of quality scoring chances, but couldn't finish them.
"We had our opportunities at the end," Swanda said. "We had some good looks and some near misses."
Swanda said he thought this game should show the Tigers that they can play evenly with any team in the state.
The Tigers had no shortage of scoring chances when they hosted Somerset last Tuesday. In the history of the New Richmond-Somerset hockey rivalry, this was one of the most one-sided games. Not only did the Tigers win 10-1. The shots finished 52-11 in the Tigers' favor, and at one point during the game, the Tigers were outshooting the Spartans 37-1.
The Tigers wanted to send a message in this game that they were ready for Hudson. For the second straight game, the Tigers scored in the opening seconds of the game. The Tigers scored 13 seconds into their win over the previous Saturday. The Tigers struck even more quickly against Somerset, needing just 11 seconds to get the opening goal of the game from Noah Towberman, who scored off a feed from Werner.
Nick Johnson scored five of the 10 goals against Somerset. Brayden Carpenter not only scored his first varsity goal in the game, he also scored his second varsity goal. Towberman also finished with two goals and Chris Lubow scored once.
The Tigers will attempt to lock up the Middle Border Conference title this Thursday when they host Baldwin-Woodville. The Tigers are 7-0 in the MBC and B-W is 5-1.