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Somerset hockey opens season by splitting with Big Rivers opponents

Somerset senior Zach Dybedahl (center) celebrates with his linemates after Dybedahl scored the first goal of the season for the Spartans against River Falls.

The week leading into the season-opening tournament was a busy one for the Somerset boys hockey team.

The Spartans hurriedly worked to assimilate the team members who were part of the Spartan football team that reached the state championship game. The late-running football season meant a late start for nearly half of the Spartan hockey players.

The Spartans showed no signs of any difficulties in their season opener on Friday. In their home tournament, the Spartans used an outstanding third period to roll past River Falls, 7-3.

In Saturday's championship game, the lack of practice time caught up with the Spartans. They played evenly with Menomonie for two periods, but the Mustangs pulled away in the third period to win 3-0.

In Friday's win over River Falls, the Spartans trailed 3-2 after the second period. The physical play of the Spartans started showing results in the third period. River Falls got caught up in trying to match the Spartans physicality, while the Spartans channeled their energy toward scoring goals.

Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said his team registered 59 hits during Friday's win.

"I was really proud of the effort. The kids really amped it up in the third period," Gilkerson said.

Sophomore Adam Marty and senior Jesse Anderson were the leaders in the Spartans' monster third period. Marty scored the tying goal 2:25 into the third period, off a nice feed from Alex Mikl.

With 9:53 left on the clock, Marty scored a short-handed goal to put the Spartans in the lead. Senior Zach Dybedahl made a huge forechecking effort to steal the puck as the Spartans were killing a penalty. He fed the puck to Marty in front of the net and Marty buried the shot.

If River Falls had any hopes of a comeback left, Anderson snuffed them out. Anderson got the puck at the point, dodged one check and buried a shot from the top of the faceoff circle with 7:24 left. Anderson scored again, banging in a rebound off Marty's shot while the Spartans were on the power play.

Marty brought the hats flying out of the crowd with 90 seconds left in the game, when he scored his third goal of the period off an assist from Jesse Brown.

The Spartans might not have been in a position to win in the third period without the energy showed by Dybedahl in the first period. Dybedahl scored on the Spartans' first shot of the night, 2:33 into the game. He took a long lead pass from Robbie Flom, skated down the right side and unleashed a slapper that rocketed into the upper glove side of the net.

Dybedahl gave the Spartans a 2-1 lead with 1:09 left in the first period. He stole a pass between the circles and immediately snapped the puck past the Wildcat goalie.

Gilkerson said the team will need to count on its veteran leaders this season. Dybedahl and Flom return as the team's top scorers. The team is counting on Anderson and Bryce Wold to lead the defense. Junior Jordan Langness took over the team's goaltending duties during last season.

"We're not worried there," Gilkerson said, pointing to Langness' 48-save effort in the playoffs against Superior last season as proof that the goalie can withstand anything at the varsity level.

Gilkerson said the team has a nice mix of skills. This is one of the more physical Spartan teams, led by seniors Trevor Schroeder and Derrek Tarter. There are also three players who joined the team with the addition of St. Croix Falls to the Somerset hockey co-op. Gilkerson said those players will have important roles in the lineup this season.

The Spartans resume their schedule this Saturday with a home game against Tomah. This will have a 4 p.m. start time. Tomah has a 1-1 record, just like the Spartans. Tomah lost over the weekend to Marshfield 8-0, then defeated Black River Falls 4-0.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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