Somerset hockey loses control of Middle Border Conference titleThis one is going to sting for a while.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
This one is going to sting for a while.
The Somerset hockey team had the Middle Border Conference title under its control, but the Spartans couldn’t maintain control. The Spartans started the six-game MBC schedule 3-0, but they couldn’t win any of their final three conference games. A loss to New Richmond on Thursday and a 3-3 tie with Amery on Saturday left the Spartans a game behind Amery in the MBC final standings.
Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said the 3-0 start had the Spartans thinking this was their year to bring home the conference title.
“They definitely raised expectations for themselves,” Gilkerson said of the strong start to the MBC season. “This serves as a little extra motivation for the playoffs.”
The playoffs have quickly moved to the forefront of the Spartans’ plans. They end the regular season this Thursday with a game at Eau Claire Regis. Next Tuesday the WIAA playoffs begin, when the Spartans host Barron in the opening round of regionals. The carrot that dangles before the Spartans is another chance to play New Richmond. If the Spartans beat Barron, they will play at New Richmond in the regional finals on Thursday, Feb. 16.
Gilkerson said the game at Regis is important because the team needs to be peaking as it reaches the playoffs.
While the Spartans took a loss and a tie in the two crucial MBC games last week, Gilkerson said the coaches were pleased with the effort the Spartans put forth in both games. The Spartans took a 1-0 lead against New Richmond when senior Zach Dybedahl scored on the power play 1:52 into the second period.
Gilkerson said the main problem for the team against New Richmond was that the Spartans sometimes panicked when they possessed the puck. That led to turnovers in bad situations, several of which were quickly turned into New Richmond goals.
The difference between the home and road team was fully exploited by both teams in this series. In the first game, when the Spartans were at home, Somerset was able to match up a checking line against New Richmond’s top scorers. This time, with the Tigers having the home ice, New Richmond had the last line change. The Tigers used that to their advantage, putting their top line on the ice several times when the Spartans had already sent out their third line.
Thursday’s loss meant Somerset needed a win on Saturday to get a share of the conference title. Amery went into the game knowing if the Warriors won or tied, they would win their first outright MBC title.
Somerset scored the only goal of the first period. Dybedahl kept the puck alive in a flurry around the net. The puck squirted to Adam Marty who was stationed at the back post and he tucked the puck into the net.
Amery tied the score with the only goal of the second period. The Warriors got a huge break on the goal, which deflected off a stick and went into the goal, just under the crossbar.
The third period was what you’d want from a championship battle. Both teams played with major intensity, with the Spartans putting 21 shots on goal in the period, compared to 12 for Amery.
Somerset took a 2-1 lead 43 seconds into the third period. Senior Robbie Flom put a shot on net, then got his rebound and beat Amery goalie Reed Sorenson. Amery tied the score at the 4:15 mark on a goal by the Warriors’ leading scorer, Jake Mullendore.
Dybedahl made the score 3-2 in Somerset’s favor at the 9:07 mark. He scored off a rebound after an initial shot from Drew Kelly.
Amery’s Tyler Richison put in the tying goal at the 11:33 mark. It was a big individual effort from Richison, who made a strong move around a Spartan defense then put a perfectly placed shot into the upper corner of the goal.
The Spartans continued to carry the action to the Warriors in the overtime, but they couldn’t get another goal. Somerset outshot Amery 7-4 in the overtime period. Somerset finished the game with a 43-33 shot advantage.