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Somerset hockey looking to plug leaks in its defense

Somerset’s Alex Lahde (13) prepares to take a faceoff during the Spartans’ recent clash with Eau Claire North.

In five of the 11 games this season, the Somerset boys hockey team has surrendered five or more goals. Four of those five games resulted in the team’s losses as the Spartans end the 2016 portion of their schedule with a 7-4 record.

The Spartans lost two of their three games last week, giving up 15 goals over the three games.

The week started with a 6-0 loss at Onalaska last Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Spartans faced West Salem in a tournament at Menomonie. It didn’t go well for the Spartans, who came away on the losing end of an 8-2 decision.

Things did begin to turn around on Thursday when the Spartans score a 4-1 win over Ashwaubenon in the second round of the Menomonie tournament.

Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said the porous defensive play can no longer be overlooked.

“It was a big eye opener. You’re not going to be able to outscore good teams. We’ve got to hold teams under three goals,” he said.

In games where the Spartans have limited opponents to three goals or less, they’re 5-1.

The Onalaska loss ranks among the most frustrating of the season. Somerset dominated control of the puck in the first period, yet came away trailing 1-0. Onalaska put the game away with four goals in the second period, including scoring twice out of a 5-on-3 situation.

The Spartans were outshot 27-25, though Somerset had many more scoring chances.

“We couldn’t hit the net to save our lives,” Gilkerson said. “I don’t think our minds were really there last week.”

Gilkerson said West Salem was a far better team than Onalaska and the Spartans put up a strong battle early in Wednesday’s game. Hunter Hartwick scored the game’s opening goal to give Somerset the lead 2:44 into Wednesday’s game.

“Hunter was one player who had a really good week. You know what you get from him every game,” Gilkerson said.

By the end of the opening period West Salem led 2-1 and West Salem put the game on ice by scoring five unanswered goals in the second period. Wyatt Schmit scored in the third period for the Spartans’ second goal.

Ashwaubenon was a weaker opponent and the Spartans took quick advantage, outshooting the Jaguars 11-1 in the scoreless first period. Somerset got rolling when Dominic Abbott and Jack Lambert scored in the middle of the second period. Schmit and Hartwick scored in the third period.

This Thursday, the Spartans start a stretch where they play three home games in six days. Somerset will host River Falls on Thursday. That’s followed by a 4 p.m. date on Saturday with Northland Pines from Eagle River. Next Tuesday, the Spartans host Middle Border Conference co-leader Baldwin-Woodville.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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