The always intense rivalry between the New Richmond and Somerset hockey teams produced a ton of shots, but only three goals on Thursday night at the New Richmond Sports Center.
It was Somerset that scored all three goals in the 3-0 win. This balances out the first meeting of the season between the two teams, when New Richmond won at Somerset, 2-1. New Richmond finishes second in the Middle Border Conference with a 5-3 record and Somerset finishes in fourth at 3-5. Somerset is now 10-10-1 overall while New Richmond is 9-12.
New Richmond put 47 shots on goal, but Somerset goaltender Kaleb Bents stopped them all. Somerset finished with 34 shots on goal.
The teams combined for 29 shots in the first period, but neither could score. The Tigers put together a couple of flurries where they put good pressure on Bents, putting 19 shots on goal in the period.
Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said he put the Spartans through tough practices all week and said it showed in the team’s first period play. Gilkerson said the Spartans upped their level of play significantly in the second period.
The Spartans only needed six seconds to score on the power play early in the second period. The Spartans won the faceoff back to A.J. Simpkins at the point. His shot was blocked by New Richmond goalie Blake Milton, but Somerset’s Antonio Gomez was in perfect position to grab the rebound and score.
The play remained at a brisk pace, with Somerset outshooting the Tigers 18-12 in the period. With two minutes left, Somerset’s Beaudee Smith was the recipient of a big hit in the Spartans’ defensive zone. Instead of getting mad, Smith made the Tigers pay. He scooped up the puck and led a charge. As he reached the Tiger blue line he unleashed a missile that beat Milton on his glove side.
In the third period, New Richmond had nearly six minutes of power plays. The Tigers were able to put 16 shots on goal in the period, but couldn’t get any past Bents.
Somerset got an empty net goal from Owen McDonough with one minute left in the game.
Gilkerson said Bents played an excellent game, but he said the entire team deserved credit for the shutout. He said the forwards came back hard through the neutral zone to be in a position to help defend the area in front of the goal. Gilkerson said improving defensive zone coverage was an emphasis all week as the team gets ready for the WIAA playoffs. The Spartans are back in action at 7 p.m. Saturday when they host Spring Lake Park. SLP already has a win this season over River Falls, so a Somerset win on Saturday would help the Spartans’ argument in Sunday’s WIAA seeding meeting.
For the Tigers, it was a week of turmoil with two veteran players not in the lineup Thursday. Tiger coach Zach Kier said this becomes an opportunity for younger players to step into the lineup to prove their ability. He said the main problem Thursday was the team’s ongoing struggles to score goals.
“Our compete-level was there,” Kier said.
Kier said that with the roster changes, the team will be putting together new lines, and the lines could change during games based on who’s performing well.
Kier said there were players who tried to step up and lead the team.
“Brock Unger is probably the most competitive kid on the team. Tommy Dornbush stepped up his game, as he’s done the past few games,” Kier said.
The schedule remains challenging for the Tigers. They play at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Tartan, at the Tartan Ice Arena in Oakdale, Minn.