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Somerset Squirts take state

The Somerset Squirt B hockey team carried its team-oriented, defensive style of play to a state championship.

On March 8-9, the Somerset Squirts earned the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association Squirt 3B state championship by sweeping their three games in the state tournament, played in Waupun. With their wins at the state tournament, the Spartan Squirts finish their season with a 31-4-2 record.

Finishing number one in the state is fitting for the Somerset Squirts, because the number one was a common thread in all of their playoff wins. In each of their playoff games, including the three games in the state tournament, the Somerset Squirts held their opponent to one goal. Somerset coach John Gauper said the team played all season with a defense-first approach.

"We really focus on the team effort," Gauper said. "We were very tough defensively."

Somerset opened the tournament by facing Baraboo on March 8. The Spartans rolled to a 6-1 win in that game.

In the semifinals, Somerset faced Burnett County, a team the Spartans had faced three times previously this season. Somerset won two of those games, with the third one ending in a tie. In the state tournament, Burnett County was no match for Somerset, with the Spartans scoring an 8-1 win.

That win moved the Spartans into the March 9 state championship game against Beaver Dam. Again, Somerset controlled the action, leading to a 5-1 victory and the state championship.

The Somerset Squirts are mostly 9-10 years old, though three 8-year-olds also skate with the team.

This is the second time this group of Somerset youth has competed at a state tournament. Four years ago, with Gauper as their coach, many of these same players competed in the Mite B state championship tournament. That tournament, ironically, was also played in Waupun. In that tournament, Somerset ended up earning third place.