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Spartans fall one game short of section finals

Somerset’s Jake Heyer (16 in black) scores the Spartan’s fourth and final goal of the game to pull his team within one to make it 5-4 in the third period of the WIAA boys hockey sectional semifinals against the New Richmond Tigers on Tuesday, Feb. 25, in New Richmond. (Photos by Jordan Willi) 1 / 3
The Spartans’ Reed Kelly (21) and Brendan Sheehan (17) try to move the puck out of the corner in the offensive zone while a pair of Tiger defenders close in during a boys hockey game on Tuesday, Feb. 25, in New Richmond. 2 / 3
Somerset’s Brendan Sheehan (17) skates up the ice with two New Richmond players defending him during a boys hockey game on Tuesday, Feb. 25, in New Richmond. 3 / 3

From the beginning of the season, Somerset Spartan boys hockey coach Dan Gilkerson wanted nothing more than for his team to make it to the WIAA boys hockey sectional final and possibly book its ticket to the state tournament.

However, the New Richmond Tigers had other ideas and erased an early 3-1 deficit on Tuesday, Feb. 25, to knock the Spartans out of the running for the state tour­nament in the section semifi­nals in New Richmond.

“It was disappointing to not meet our goal since we wanted to make it to the sec­tion finals,” Gilkerson said. “That was our goal from the beginning and we were very close to reaching it.”

Despite the loss, Gilkerson and the Spartans were happy with the way they had played the season and with how they fought back against New Richmond in the semifinal game.

“I thought we played well in that game and that we had the right mindset,” Gilkerson said. “Even though we didn’t meet our goal, we still had a good season and won 17 games. We also played well against some of the top teams in our section throughout the year.”

The Spartans struck first in the game, taking an early lead on an unassisted goal from Reed Kelly less than three minutes into the game. However, the Tigers tied things up shortly after on a shot from Jake Singerhouse. Somerset regained the lead with 4:44 left in the period when Hunter Hartwick scored with assists going to Jesse Brown and Adam Marty.

“In the first period, we played really well and exe­cuted our game plan,” Gilkerson said. “We were physical and dominated the play for most of the period. We outshot them 14-2, but I wish we had capitalized on a few more of our opportuni­ties in that period.”

Aaron Moore scored on a breakaway halfway through the second period to extend the Spartans’ lead to two, but things started to go downhill from there when New Richmond capitalized on a power-play with less than five minutes left in the peri­od.

“The effort we brought was inconsistent, but it was still there in spurts and we had our chances,” Gilkerson said. “We missed some assignments and let New Richmond capitalize on those missed assignments. That penalty we took that the Tigers capitalized on was what seemed to wake them up as a team and they had a new intensity.”

By the end of the second period, the Tigers had taken the lead after scoring three unanswered goals.

“I told the kids that we needed to come out in the third and play like we did in the first period,” Gilkerson said. “We needed to be phys­ical again and play like we knew we could.”

New Richmond extended its lead to 6-3 on a goal from Kole Hallmark, but the Spartans’ Reed Baillargeon scored with 5:10 remaining to bring Somerset back with­in two goals. However, the Tigers scored once again with less than three minutes remaining to put the game back out of reach.

“The next step for us is to get over that hump and make the section finals, then the state tournament,” Gilkerson said. “I think we will be right there again next season with the kids that are coming back. We are losing four of our core guys, but I feel like we will still have a strong team.”

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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