New Richmond and Somerset seem to always play close, action packed hockey games.
That was the case again last Tuesday at the Somerset Ice Arena. The Spartans scored first, but New Richmond scored twice, two minutes apart in the second period, to earn a 2-1 victory. The win moves New Richmond to 3-1 in the Middle Border Conference standings while Somerset slips to 1-3.
Somerset scored its goal in the first period, but that’s when the Spartans missed their chance to take control of the game. The Spartan goal came with 5:42 left in the first period. Sophomore Antonio Gomez pressured a New Richmond defender into a turnover in the Tigers’ zone. Gomez dropped a pass to A.J. Simpkins, who skated in full speed to beat Tiger goalie Blake Milton. It was the only one of Somerset’s 25 shots to get past Milton.
The Spartans’ chances were hurt when Gomez suffered a knee injury late in the second period and wasn’t able to return.
Both coaches recognized that the first period was Somerset’s window of opportunity.
“That first period, if we could have capitalized on our chances, we could have had a two, three or four goal lead,” said Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson.
New Richmond coach Zach Kier ventured “maybe in the first period we were too amped. We were throwing the puck around. We just weren’t clicking.”
The Tigers were turning the puck over so frequently that one of the team members yelled at his teammates that “this isn’t the Oprah Show and they can’t be giving everything away.”
In the second period the Tigers gradually began to gain momentum. Somerset goalie Kaleb Bents was giving up very few rebounds, but the Tigers finally got ahold of one with three minutes left in the period. Caden McDonald put a shot on goal from the left circle. Ryder Flatten fought through several Spartan defenders to get the rebound for the tying goal.
The Tigers were called for a penalty a minute later. Perhaps the best facet of the Tigers’ game Tuesday was its penalty kill. Tiger sophomore Sam Olson got the puck in the Spartan and skated around the perimeter of the Spartans’ zone. He came off the left boards and fired a shot that just got above the catching glove of Somerset goalie Kaleb Bents and under the crossbar.
Kier said the penalty kill is an aspect the team believes is a strength.
“We teach them to be aggressive. We try to force people to make mistakes,” Kier said.
One change the Spartans unveiled was moving leading scorer Beaudee Smith back to defense. Gilkerson said the team needed an older presence to help on the breakout, leading to the move. He said it will also mean that Smith will be on the ice approximately 75 percent of each game.
New Richmond hockey
A share of the Middle Border Conference lead was at stake when the New Richmond hockey team skated at Amery on Thursday.
The Tigers fell behind 2-0 in the first period and could never recover, losing to the Warriors, 7-3. This gives Amery a two-game lead in the MBC standings at 5-0, while New Richmond falls into a tie for second place with Baldwin-Woodville at 3-2.
Kier was succinct in his assessment of the Tigers’ performance.
“We gave the puck away too much to win any game, let alone a game to go into a tie for the MBC championship,” he said.
Kier said the biggest problem with the team was inconsistency.
“We did some nice things in the offensive zone but our giveaways doomed us. We allowed it to snowball again once they scored,” Kier said. “We had some nice stretches and some really bad stretches.”
Amery scored the only two goals of the first period. The Tigers cut the margin to one goal twice in the second period. First, McDonald 1:38 into the period to cut the lead to 2-1. That started a flurry of three goals. Amery scored at the 2:33 mark, but the Tigers quickly answered. Just 24 seconds later, Olson scored off an assist from Brock Unger to make the score 3-2.
That’s where the score remained for 10 minutes. The Warriors tallied twice late in the period. The Tigers got a goal from Jens Christensen two minutes into the third period, but couldn’t cut any further into the lead.
The Tigers will make another road trip on Friday, playing at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn.
The Spartans always seem to have close, contentious games when they play the Northwest Icemen. That was the case again Thursday when the Spartans won a 4-3 overtime road game.
Kieran DeFoe scored the overtime game-winner while the Spartans were short-handed. The play began with John Wiehl grabbing the puck and carrying it into the offensive zone. He dropped a pass to DeFoe, who carried the puck to the goal line. From there, he banked a shot off the back of the Icemen’s goaltender and the puck bounced into the net.
The Spartans needed a strong finish to pull this game out, though it didn’t start that way. Corey Rose scored 1:51 into the game on a shot from the point. With 26 seconds left in the first period, Smith fired a shot into the upper left corner to make the score 2-0.
Gilkerson said the team’s play dropped off after the first period. The Icemen scored the only goal of the second period, then scored twice in the first 5:35 of the third period to take a 3-2 lead.
Gilkerson said the Spartans “flipped a switch” and suddenly began playing with great energy in the final five minutes of regulation. With three minutes left, the Spartans got the tying goal. Rose hit Jordan Brown in-stride with a pass and Brown was able to skate free to the goal, tucking the puck between the goalie’s blockers.
The Spartans, now 8-8, don’t play again until next Tuesday when they play at Baldwin-Woodville.