The orange and black division 2 state championship was black and blue as the Oregon Panthers and New Richmond Tigers battled on Saturday at Bob Suter's Capitol Ice Arena.
In front of a packed and raucous crowd the two teams played an excellent, physical hockey game and New Richmond captured their first WIAA hockey state championship with a 5-1 win, with two empty-net goals.
Early in the first period it looked like the game might go off the rails with Oregon taking two penalties in quick succession to give Oregon a 5-on-3 advantage, but Oregon followed with two penalties of their own giving New Richmond and eventual 5-on-3 advantage.
New Richmond used that advantage and open the scoring Easton Schmidt came on a 2-on-2 and his defender fell down. Schmidt cut to the middle and shot the glove side corner for the 1-0 lead.
Thankfully the penalty fest didn't continue.
New Richmond added an even strength goal about three minutes later. Catcher Langeness fired a shot on net and the rebound kicked out to Bjorn Bahneman who popped it into the blocker side corner for a 2-0 lead.
After another five and a half minutes New Richmond made it 3-0. Reece Hubmer won a faceoff back to Ben Hahn who fired the shot on goal through traffic and it, it may have hit an Oregon defender on the way.
Things were looking rough for Oregon when the took a penalty in the final minute of the period but they used the aggressive New Richmond power play against them and James Sherven got behind the defense and raced in on a contested breakway. He beat New Richmond Blake Milton on the shot and narrowed the lead to 3-1.
Nate McAlpine had 10 saves in the first period, and Milton had 7.
Neither team would score in the second period and New Richmond controlled most of the action, outshooting Oregon 10-5. Most of the Oregon shots came in the final 90 seconds of the period.
The third period was more of the same with both teams playing a strong game. It wasn't until New Richmond got two short handed goals at the end of the game, from Langeness and Bahneman, that we got our final score of 5-1. The Panthers outshot Oregon 10-7 in the period.
In the end, Kirk Daubenspeck Award winner Blake Milton stopped 21 of 22 shots for the champion New Richmond Tigers. Nate McAlpine played a great game for New Richmond, stopping 24 of 27. Josh Kean went in after the second empty net goal and stopped the final shot of the game.
This was the Tiger's second state championship appearance, having previous lost to Superior in the 2003 state championship game. This was Oregon's first trip to the championship and first solo trip to the state tournament, previously going in 2000 as part of the McFarland/Oregon coop.