The Somerset boys hockey team gave a performance worth savoring on Wednesday, but that will have to wait.
Wednesday’s win was in the opening round of the WIAA playoffs. That win advances the Spartans into the second round of the playoffs, meaning they will turn around and play at Hudson on Thursday. That game will be played at 7:30 p.m. at the Hudson Sports Center.
Somerset is the seventh seed in the section and Hudson is the second seed.
Somerset improved to 9-14-2 for the season, but that overall record is deceptive. Somerset was 1-8-1 in late December. Since then, the Spartans have been 8-6-1.
The Spartans advanced Wednesday with a 6-2 win over the WSFLG Blizzard, the tenth seed. WSFLG covers the communities of Webster, Siren, Frederic, Luck and Grantsburg.
The change in the fortunes of the Spartans has been due to the growth of an extremely young team. Somerset senior Jackson Haukom has spent most of his high school career skating a regular shift on the Spartan varsity team. He said the season began with three players having ever skated a varsity shift.
Haukom has had to play through pain after missing two weeks early in the season. He said the injury is a fracture in his tibia just below the knee. He said it’s an injury that doesn’t require surgery, and it’s just a matter of dealing with the pain from the knee in every game.
Haukom scored once in Wednesday’s game. The goal showed the rapport he’s built with the younger players. He saw players battling for the puck behind the net, so he shifted from the point to the slot. Antonio Gomez won the battle for the puck and quickly sent a pass in Haukom’s direction. Haukom buried the shot before the WSFLG goalie could react. This was Somerset’s fourth goal and it was Haukom’s ninth of the season.
Haukom also set up Somerset’s first goal, carrying the puck deep into the zone, then finding Noah Bailey open for a shot from the right faceoff dot.
Because of the youth on the Spartans at the start of the season, the coaches tried Haukom at forward. As a lifelong defenseman, Haukom couldn’t get comfortable with the new role and was quickly moved back to defense.
“I didn’t like that, it was too much skating for me,” Haukom said. “I like defense because you can sit back and rest if you need to.”
Haukom said he’s been impressed with the progress his young teammates have made.
“It’s a great group of kids. They should be good the next couple seasons,” he said.
Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said he’s seen Haukom improve steadily from the knee injury.
“The last five or six games, he’s been really good. I don’t think he’s 100 percent, but he gives everything he has,” Gilkerson said.
The scoring Wednesday came from a mix of the young and veteran players. Jordan Brown and Cody Anderson each scored once and Gomez netted two goals. The freshman has been red-hot, with seven goals over the past four games.
With less than 24 hours to get ready for Thursday’s game, Gilkerson said there’ll be some quick video scouting done for the Spartans to get up to speed for the game at Hudson.