Somerset hockey follows tie with pair of victories
Strengthening its chances in the WIAA tournament seeding is a season-long focus of the Somerset hockey team.
The Spartans helped their chances in the seeding process during their three games last week. The Spartans started the week with a 1-1 tie at New Richmond last Tuesday. That was followed by wins against Menomonie on Thursday and Minnehaha Academy on Saturday. The Spartans hold an 8-2-1 record as they head into a holiday tournament in Blaine this Wednesday through Friday. Their first game will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday against Luverne, Minn., a team that reached the Minnesota Class A section finals last season.
Tuesday's clash between the Spartans and Tigers was a typical meeting between these teams. It was played at a wild pace and excellent intensity. Neither team scored in the first period. The Spartans got the first goal, when Jesse Brown scored with five minutes left in the second period. Brown scored on a rebound after an initial shot by Reed Baillargeon.
Both goalies came up big throughout the game. New Richmond got its goal early in the third period on a short-handed breakaway. Somerset goalie Jordan Langness came up with several big saves in the third period and overtime to keep the score tied.
Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said he liked the way the Spartans handled the pressure of the big game. He said New Richmond tried to be physical early in the contest.
"Our guys did a nice job of not getting caught up in that," Gilkerson said.
On Thursday Somerset took a key step in its hopes of achieving a high seed in the WIAA sectional tournament bracket by defeating Menomonie 2-1. This balances the books on a Spartan 4-1 loss to the Mustangs in the second game of the season.
"We felt it was a huge game for us," Gilkerson said. "We had to win that game to be considered for a top three seed and that's where we want to be."
Gilkerson said the intensity of Tuesday's game left the Spartans with weakened legs for this game. He was pleased with how the team fought through the lack of energy.
"We sure had to work for it, but we got it done," he said.
Neither team scored in the first period. Somerset got the opening goal at the 12:12 mark of the second period. Michael Chernyaev, the only senior skater on the Spartans, scored on a two-on-one break, taking a pass from Jesse Brown. Chernyaev gave the Spartans a key lift in Tuesday's and Thursday's games, playing dedicated defense.
"In the past two games he's really stepped up," Gilkerson said.
The Spartans built the lead to 2-0 by scoring 50 seconds into the third period. Brown again had the pass that set up the goal. He fired a pass to Adam Marty in front of the crease, with Marty chipping the puck into the upper right corner of the goal.
Menomonie scored four minutes later and the rest of the game was a battle for the Spartans to hang onto the win. Langness made 23 saves to preserve Somerset's lead.
The Spartans had to rally from a 2-0 deficit in Saturday's game. Minnehaha's leading scorer got free on a pair of breakaways that he converted into goals.
It took winning some battles in front of the net for the Spartans to tie the game. Marty and Reed Kelly scored from scrums in front of the Minnehaha net to tie the game midway through the second quarter. Reed Baillargeon and Isaac Moore assisted on both scores.
Minnehaha took the lead again with a power play goal late in the second period.
The Spartans tied the game with a pair of power play goals in the third period. Quick puck movement between Kelly, Brown and Aaron Moore resulted in the tying goal at the 6:57 mark. Just over a minute later, Marty scored off assists from Brown and Moore.
The capper was an empty net goal by Baillargeon with five seconds left in the game.
The offense was sharp for the Spartans Saturday, generating 47 shots that led to the five goals. This was a needed offensive boost, after the Spartans scored three goals in their previous three games.