Tough opponents sharpen Somerset hockey team
Anyone wondering if there was value in the Somerset hockey team playing a tougher schedule this season only needed to see the Spartans play at Menomonie on Saturday.
The Spartans scored their second win of the season over the Mustangs, both by 5-2 scores. The scores may have been identical, but the way the Spartans played was not, according to Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson.
“The pace we played was much better than the first time,” he said. “The better competition really helped us.”
The win raises the Spartans’ season record to 13-3-3 and strengthens their argument as a top-four team in the upcoming WIAA sectional tournament seeding. The Spartans can do more for their seeding hopes this Thursday when they play at New Richmond at 7 p.m. New Richmond delivered one of the Spartans’ losses this season, a 3-2 setback on Dec. 14.
The Spartans will also play on Saturday, in a 2 p.m. home game against Robbinsdale Cooper.
In Saturday’s win at Menomonie, the Spartans set an early pace that had the Mustangs struggling to keep up. The Spartans scored eight minutes into the game when Adam Marty scored off an assist from Reed Kelly. Menomonie was able to tie the score four minutes later, scoring on a shot where Spartan goalie Adam Larson’s view was screened.
Somerset’s amped up pace began taking its toll on Menomonie in the second period. The Mustangs were called for five penalties as they tried to slow down the Spartans. Somerset scored off one of the power play chances. Marty scored again, finishing off a nice series of passes from Reed Kelly and Drew Kelly.
Marty completed his hat trick a minute into the third period with a short-handed goal. Aaron Moore fed the puck ahead to Marty in the neutral zone. Marty did the rest, skating around a Menomonie defenseman for a clean shot.
The lead was raised to 4-1 four minutes later when Drew Kelly scored from the high slot, with Jesse Brown and Marty assisting on the play.
Menomonie’s Jace Cseter scored with three minutes left in the game, scoring on a pretty backhand shot after a Spartan turnover.
Drew Kelly notched the Spartans’ final goal, an empty netter.
Marty and Reed Kelly are the leading scorers in the Middle Border Conference this season. His four points on Saturday give Marty 48 for the season while Kelly’s three points give him 46.
The Spartans did suffer a significant loss on Saturday. Freshman Alex Lahde, who is tied for fourth on the team in goals, was lost for the season with a broken collarbone. The Spartans are taking the “next man up” approach to the injury. Gilkerson said there are several sophomores and freshmen who are ready to step up and accept more ice time.
The Spartans have already been doing that on defense. They were without Logan Wiederin and Isaac Moore on Saturday. Freshmen Wil Gauper and Hunter Hartwick stepped in to share the role as the Spartans’ fourth defenseman.