Wins against three opponents that had beaten River Falls didn’t seem to carry any weight for the Somerset hockey team in the WIAA Division 2 seeding meeting that was held Saturday.
Somerset received the third seed in the section and River Falls received the second seed in the bracket, with Baldwin-Woodville getting the top spot in the seeding. Somerset will open tournament play at home on Thursday, Feb. 20, hosting sixth seed Black River Falls.
Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said he was “disappointed” in the voting in the seeding meeting. He said River Falls “played a tougher schedule, but they haven’t beaten any of them.”
Somerset beat its third opponent that has a win over River Falls when the Spartans took down Spring Lake Park on Saturday, 5-3.
This was a wild, fastly played game, with 91 shots being put on goal between the two teams. Somerset scored twice in the first period and three times in the second to build a 5-0 lead. Spring Lake Park never slowed down, cutting the margin to 5-3 with 5:23 remaining in the game.
Somerset finished with 41 shots and Spartan goalie Kaleb Bents stopped 47 of the 50 shots he faced from SLP.
Somerset senior Ryan Kelly struck for the first goal, two minutes into the game, by placing a shot in the upper right corner. Jordan Brown made the score 2-0 by scoring with 37 seconds left in the period off a nice feed from Owen McDonough.
The Spartans scored three goals in an 83-second burst in the middle of the second period. Noah Bailey scored the first of them, with his shot ringing off the pipe and into the goal. On the same shift, Antonio Gomez scored on a breakaway. SLP then changed goalies and Somerset’s Beaudee Smith scored ripped a shot for a goal on the first shot against the new goaltender.
With the win, the Spartans climb above the .500 level for the first time this season with an 11-10-1 record. The Spartans complete their regular season with games against Minnesota opponents on Tuesday and Thursday. The Spartans will play at Dodge County on Tuesday, before hosting Cambridge on Thursday.
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.
New Richmond put 47 shots on goal, but 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.
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 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 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.
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.