No. 5 seed New Ulm boys prepare for Hutchinson

NEW ULM — Sometimes a disappointing regular season can be erased by a better performance in the postseason.

That is what New Ulm Eagles boys’ hockey coach Ryan Neuman is hoping for when his team travels to Hutchinson Thursday night to meet the Tigers in the first round of the Section 3A tournament.

The Eagles, seeded fifth, come in with a 13-11-1 record, while Hutchinson, the No. 4 seed, is 11-13-1 with one of those wins a 3-1 victory over New Ulm in both team’s second game of the season.

This has been a season where the Eagles have closely resembled a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde team, playing well in short spurts, followed by consistently inconsistent play.

“That is still continuing,” Neuman said. “I thought that we took a good step forward when we tied a good Northfield team, but then we took steps backwards last week. We need to get them back up to playing at a high level.”

Neuman said that he is going to try and get them ready by having up-tempo practices and competing more.

“But it comes onto them with their game preparation and getting focused in the locker room before the game,” he said. “We need to be ready for that first period. That (first) period has hurt us all year.”

In their 3-1 loss to Waseca to close out the regular season, New Ulm allowed 28 shots on goal to the Bluejays in the first period, which is unacceptable at any level of hockey.

“When you are always playing from behind, it is always tough,” Neuman said. “We have battled back in some games — we have waited to the third period to beat somebody — but Thursday we are going to have to have a strong first period to be successful. And it is tougher in the playoffs to come back.

“We have been fighting to score goals to begin with and when you get behind right away, you grip your stick tighter and do not make passes that you should make.”

While the Eagles are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, that record is deceiving as it has come against weak competition. Those six wins have come agains teams that have a combined record of 13-73-1.

“We have played weak competition and you get into bad habits,” Neuman said. “But right now how the playoffs go is pretty much on them at this point in time. The coaches have been with them since November. What they want to take in and apply to the ice on Thursday is on them.”