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Somerset hockey see extremes in opponents

Somerset senior Adam Marty (7) rips a shot during the win over Tomah.1 / 3
Somerset’s Reed Kelly (21) heads up ice after gaining control of the puck in the defensive zone in Saturday’s game against Tomah. 2 / 3
Somerset’s Reed Baillargeon (19) battles for space in front of the Tomah goalkeeper during Saturday’s game.3 / 3

The early season opponents have presented opposite extremes for the Somerset boys hockey team.

The Spartans have faced sharp, seasoned opponents such as Hudson and Menomonie. But they’ve also faced young opponents trying to find their way in teams like River Falls, Pine City and Tomah.

The games last week were prime examples. The Spartans faced their toughest challenge so far last Tuesday when they played at Hudson. This was a rematch of last season’s WIAA sectional semifinal, where Hudson ended Somerset’s most successful season. Tuesday’s game was a gritty rematch with both teams wanting to establish themselves as the top dog in the seeding possibilities for this season’s playoffs. The teams played evenly again. Both teams scored in the second period and that was the only scoring in the 1-1 tie.

Saturday’s game was an opposite extreme. The Spartans had no trouble in defeating Tomah 7-1. A better example of the Spartans’ dominance was Somerset outshooting Tomah 17-0 in the first period. It wasn’t until the middle of the second period that Tomah got its first shot on goal, after Somerset had taken the first 26 shots.

Tomah’s defense was more like a zone defense used in basketball, where the Timberwolves packed in all their skaters in close proximity to the goal. This allowed the Spartans the chance to shoot whenever they wanted from the perimeter. Getting the puck closer to the net was more of a challenge, however.

The Spartans got the only goal of the first period in one of the rare times when they had open ice. Alex Lahde fed the puck ahead to Adam Marty, who used a deke move to get the goalie to commit, before tucking the puck in the vacated side of the goal.

In the second period, Spartan senior Aaron Moore backhanded a shot into the net 67 seconds into the period. Three minutes later, Marty scored again, firing a blistering slapshot from the top of the right faceoff circle.

The younger players got the majority of the ice time for the Spartans in the rest of the game. Lahde, Isaac Moore, Hunter Hartwick and Jake Heyer scored. It was the first varsity goals for Heyer and Hartwick.

The Tomah game was a drastic change from the pace the Spartans faced when they played at Hudson last Tuesday. It was the first time this season that the Spartans had the pace of the game dictated to them.

“Hudson controlled the play,” said Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson. “We struggled on our breakout. That contributed to us being in our own end a lot.”

Though the Spartans played much of their game in their defensive zone, Gilkerson said the team maintained strong positioning and gave up few good scoring chances to the Raiders. Hudson’s only goal came on the power play 4:48 into the second period. The puck deflected off a skate toward the slot, where Hudson’s Trey LaBarge was able to score.

The Spartans got the tying goal with 34 seconds left in the second period. Reed Kelly carried the puck into the Hudson zone. When the Raider defenseman didn’t come out to challenge him, Kelly ripped a shot that found the upper corner of the goal.

This has become a rather heated rivalry after the close games played last season. The game became very physical, especially in the overtime, when each team had a player ejected for fighting.

The Spartans face another of their rivals this Saturday, when they host New Richmond at 7 p.m. The Spartans will get their shot at defending Middle Border Conference champion Regis-McDonell next Tuesday, skating at 7:30 p.m. at the Hobbs Ice Center in Eau Claire.

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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