Somerset hockey team hits reset button, beats Robbinsdale Cooper 8-3
Hitting the reset button worked for the Somerset hockey team.
The Spartans were thoroughly outplayed last Thursday in their Middle Border Conference showdown with New Richmond, losing 8-1.
The Spartans had one practice to correct things, which they must have done efficiently. Because when they took the ice on Saturday they were much sharper, delivering an 8-3 thumping to Robbinsdale Cooper at the Somerset Civic Center.
“We got after it in our practice, that’s for sure,” said Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson. “We worked harder in practice than we played on Thursday.”
The Spartan coaches made several changes on Friday to how the team was running its systems and also made several personnel moves. Gilkerson said the defense had been sagging back too far in recent games and the forwards weren’t coming back to be as involved in the breakout.
“That’s been an issue all year,” Gilkerson said of the team’s ability to break the puck out of the defensive zone.
Gilkerson said the breakout had been better until a recent injury to junior defenseman Logan Wiederin. To replace Wiederin’s speed, forward Jesse Brown was moved to defense and freshman Wil Gauper was shifted to forward. The move paid immediate dividends, with Brown scoring twice and Gauper notching a goal and an assist on Saturday.
“We just really upped our aggressiveness, especially in the neutral zone,” Gilkerson said of Saturday’s game. “The guys responded in practice.”
The Spartans took charge of Saturday’s game by scoring four times in the first 11:27 of action. Brendan Sheehan, Adam Marty, Gauper and Sheehan (again) notched goals in that outburst.
Brown scored his two goals early in the second period to put the Spartans ahead 6-1. Marty and Hunter Hartwick rang up the final Somerset goals.
Gilkerson said he was impressed that two of the team’s youngest players, Gauper and Hartwick, scored goals by making strong moves to the net. The coaches are looking for more players who are willing to fight for position in front of the net. Gilkerson said junior Reed Baillargeon is the player who has been most consistent in battling around the front of the net every game.
The Spartans had plenty of reason to play well on Saturday, mainly to remove the memories of Thursday’s 8-1 cave-in against New Richmond.
The final score of Thursday’s game is deceptive, because for two periods this was a tightly-fought hockey game. New Richmond scored once in each of the first two periods. When New Richmond scored 1:17 into the third period, the Spartans seemed to buckle and they were caught flat-footed repeatedly in the final 15 minutes of the game.
Gilkerson said the turning point of the game was late in the second period when the Spartans had a five-on-three penalty and they couldn’t cut into New Richmond’s lead.
The uptempo play that has been the Spartans’ style all season wasn’t there in this game. New Richmond had a 10-1 shot advantage when the game’s first goal was scored. The Spartans struggled all night to break the puck out of their zone. New Richmond’s huge advantage in puck possession led the Tigers to have a 45-19 edge in shots on goal.
Senior Aaron Moore scored the only Somerset goal with 7:25 left in the game.
The Spartans play their final two Middle Border Conference games in the upcoming days. They currently have a 3-3 MBC record and a 14-4-3 overall mark. On Thursday the Spartans host Baldwin-Woodville and on Tuesday they host the Regis-McDonell co-op team. That game has major consequences in the conference, because a Spartan win would rob Regis a share of the conference championship.
The WIAA tournament is also approaching, with the sectional tournament bracket seeding meeting scheduled for this Sunday. Most indications are that Somerset and Superior are the contenders for the third and fourth spots in the sectional, with Sunday’s voting to decide the final placement in the bracket.