Somerset skaters open season with three convincing wins
Outscoring its first three opponents 25-3 shows the Somerset boys hockey team is ready to take up where it left off last season.
The Spartans defeated River Falls, Menomonie and Pine City, Minn., in the tournament that was held in Somerset last Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
Last year, the Spartans notched the most wins in team history when they finished 18-6-2. The season started with a 11-1 thrashing of River Falls last Tuesday. The Spartans fought off a challenge from Menomonie’s Mustangs on Friday, winning 5-2. The Spartans finished the weekend with a 9-0 win against Pine City.
The tournament started with the Spartans facing River Falls. The Wildcats are coached by former Spartan coach Joe Cranston, who is doing double duty, also coaching the UW-River Falls women’s team. Cranston had duties with the college team that night so his squad was coached by three assistant coaches, one of them being former Spartan player Pat Cranston.
The Spartans got goals from Adam Marty and Austin Larson in the opening minutes against River Falls. The Spartans weren’t sharp the rest of the period, but a goal by Brandon Sheehan with 11 seconds left in the period gave them a 3-1 lead.
In the second period, the Spartans used their superior speed to break the game open. The Spartans scored six times in the period, mostly on breakaways or strong moves to the goal where they drove past a Wildcat defenseman.
Spartan coach Dan Gilkerson is trying to instill a higher level of intensity in his team. He started the season using the approach that no matter the score, the Spartans should play with a mindset like they’re trailing in the game.
“We have a lot of confidence right now,” Gilkerson said. “It’s a matter of bringing the effort all the time. We’ve got to play like we’re down two (goals) all the time.”
The Spartans needed a more consistent effort on Friday when they received a good challenge from the Menomonie Mustangs. The Spartans struck early again, with Reed Baillargeon batting home a rebound 2:30 into the game. Menomonie tied the game with a power play goal with 48 seconds remaining in the period.
The Spartans can be an exceptional passing team and that was shown on their goals in the second period. Drew Kelly and Reed Kelly got the goals, finishing off plays where the Spartans used a succession of crisp passes to create scoring chances.
The lead grew to 4-1 when Jesse Brown scored a minute into the third period. Baillargeon added an empty net goal in the final seconds of the game.
While Friday’s game was competitive, Saturday’s game against Pine City was not. The Spartans scored 29 seconds into the game and they dominated throughout, winning 9-0.
The challenge for the Spartans came in not getting drawn into the rough, physical style that Pine City wanted to play. To keep the team on task, the coaches gave the Spartans a challenge. For every shot on goal they allowed, they would have to do a 40-second drill. For every goal they scored, the Spartans eliminated one of those drills. The Spartans held Pine City to 10 shots, while scoring nine goals, so they only had to skate one 40-second drill.
Sheehan notched a hat trick for the Spartans in Saturday’s game, as did Reed Kelly. Brown, Alex Lahde and Isaac Moore each scored once.
The Spartans resume their schedule on Saturday with a 4 p.m. home game against Tomah. Somerset starts its Middle Border Conference schedule next Tuesday when the Spartans play at Amery.