Spartans fall one game short of section finals
From the beginning of the season, Somerset Spartan boys hockey coach Dan Gilkerson wanted nothing more than for his team to make it to the WIAA boys hockey sectional final and possibly book its ticket to the state tournament.
However, the New Richmond Tigers had other ideas and erased an early 3-1 deficit on Tuesday, Feb. 25, to knock the Spartans out of the running for the state tournament in the section semifinals in New Richmond.
“It was disappointing to not meet our goal since we wanted to make it to the section finals,” Gilkerson said. “That was our goal from the beginning and we were very close to reaching it.”
Despite the loss, Gilkerson and the Spartans were happy with the way they had played the season and with how they fought back against New Richmond in the semifinal game.
“I thought we played well in that game and that we had the right mindset,” Gilkerson said. “Even though we didn’t meet our goal, we still had a good season and won 17 games. We also played well against some of the top teams in our section throughout the year.”
The Spartans struck first in the game, taking an early lead on an unassisted goal from Reed Kelly less than three minutes into the game. However, the Tigers tied things up shortly after on a shot from Jake Singerhouse. Somerset regained the lead with 4:44 left in the period when Hunter Hartwick scored with assists going to Jesse Brown and Adam Marty.
“In the first period, we played really well and executed our game plan,” Gilkerson said. “We were physical and dominated the play for most of the period. We outshot them 14-2, but I wish we had capitalized on a few more of our opportunities in that period.”
Aaron Moore scored on a breakaway halfway through the second period to extend the Spartans’ lead to two, but things started to go downhill from there when New Richmond capitalized on a power-play with less than five minutes left in the period.
“The effort we brought was inconsistent, but it was still there in spurts and we had our chances,” Gilkerson said. “We missed some assignments and let New Richmond capitalize on those missed assignments. That penalty we took that the Tigers capitalized on was what seemed to wake them up as a team and they had a new intensity.”
By the end of the second period, the Tigers had taken the lead after scoring three unanswered goals.
“I told the kids that we needed to come out in the third and play like we did in the first period,” Gilkerson said. “We needed to be physical again and play like we knew we could.”
New Richmond extended its lead to 6-3 on a goal from Kole Hallmark, but the Spartans’ Reed Baillargeon scored with 5:10 remaining to bring Somerset back within two goals. However, the Tigers scored once again with less than three minutes remaining to put the game back out of reach.
“The next step for us is to get over that hump and make the section finals, then the state tournament,” Gilkerson said. “I think we will be right there again next season with the kids that are coming back. We are losing four of our core guys, but I feel like we will still have a strong team.”