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Somerset hockey gets back to defense

Somerset's Nick Courteau (17) battles an Aquinas/Holmen player for position during Friday's game in Somerset. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

A return to a defensive emphasis produced one of the stronger performances of the second half of the season for the Somerset boys hockey team Friday, Feb. 9.

The Spartans (5-19) hosted the La Crosse Aquinas/Holmen cooperative team that has an 18-6 record. The Spartans went to a more defensive approach and it paid off. The Avalanche didn't score until there were three seconds left in the first period. The Avalanche added single goals in the second and third periods to defeat the Spartans 3-0.

It was clear from the start that the Spartans wholeheartedly grasped the idea of playing with a more defensive intent on Friday. After giving up one of the highest shot totals in the state this winter, the Spartans didn't allow the Avalanche a shot on goal for more than 10 minutes to start the game.

The Avalanche got seven shots and the first goal in the latter stages of the opening period when the Spartans took two penalties.

Aquinas rode the momentum of that goal into the second period, scoring 4:22 into the period. For the rest of the game, Somerset looked like a team that wanted to prove something. The Spartans outshot the Avalanche 7-6 in the second period and 9-4 in the third period. Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said his team generated several point-blank looks, but couldn't get the puck past the Avalanche goaltender.

One aspect that is aiding the Spartans is the progress of the younger players on the team. Gilkerson said players like Trevor Young, Geoffrey Enger, Jordan Brown (now injured) and Nick Courteau are finding roles within the team.

"There's been a lot of progress. They're all starting to figure it out," Gilkerson said.

This was the final game of the regular season for the Spartans. They were scheduled to begin WIAA tournament play at home on Tuesday against the Northwest Icemen. The winner of Tuesday's game will be in action Thursday, feb. 15 playing at top-seeded Hudson at 7 p.m.

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 more than 30 years.

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