New Richmond coach Zach Kier used the baseball analogy of swinging a weighted bat when he described the recent schedule the Tiger hockey team has faced.
On Tuesday the Tigers hosted Wausau West, one of the state’s top-ranked Division 1 programs. Outside of one six-minute stretch in the second period, the Tigers played evenly with their high-powered opponent. West scored four goals in that span, and those were the only goals scored in the Tigers’ 4-0 loss to the Warriors.
The Tigers are in the midst of a busy week. After playing at Somerset on Tuesday, they will play at Amery on Thursday. They will finish the week with a home game Saturday against Menomonie.
The last two games, against Hudson and Wausau West, pitted the Tigers against two teams that perennially rank among Wisconsin’s best.
“We were excited to get them on the schedule for that reason,” Kier said of the addition of Wausau West to an already challenging schedule.
That’s where the baseball analogy comes in. Kier said by playing some of the best teams in the state, the other teams on the Tiger schedule won’t seem as fast or talented.
All four of West’s goals came from the same area to the right side of the Tiger goal. New Richmond freshman goaltender Blake Milton stopped all of the other 43 shots that Wausau put on goal.
“Blake was outstanding,” Kier said. “He’s never seen that quality of shots. It’s been a lot for a freshman goalie to start every game. He’s stepped up and played with confidence.”
The Tiger coaches decided to change the team’s forecheck during the recent Hudson game. Kier said the more defensive structure of the forecheck helped the Tigers to create numerous turnovers. Kier said the Tigers now need to get better at converting those turnovers into scoring chances.
Though the Tigers were shut out, Kier said the line of Brock Unger, Tucker Erickson and Sam Olson produced a number of quality scoring chances in the loss.
It has been a grueling schedule for the Tigers. They played 10 games in December and are now slated to play nine games in January.
“We’ve seen ups, we’ve seen downs. I like where we’re at,” Kier said.