The Somerset hockey team is playing some of its best hockey of the season as it ends the regular season and looks to the WIAA playoffs.
The Spartans won their regular season finale on Thursday on their home ice, defeating Cambridge-Isanti (Minn.) 3-1. This gives the Spartans a 12-11-1 record as they head into the playoffs.
Somerset will start the playoffs on its home ice at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20. The Spartans, the third seed in the Division 2 sectional hockey bracket, will host sixth-seeded Black River Falls in that game. Black River Falls is 8-14 this season. The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to the sectional semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said the Tigers are an opponent that has ability. They recently lost to Middle Border Conference champion Amery, 5-3, and they average four goals per game this season.
“If you give them opportunities, they can definitely put the puck away,” Gilkerson said.
The Spartans average 3.3 goals per game this season. The Spartans are 4-1-1 in their last six games.
Gilkerson said the team’s play was a little choppy Thursday, especially in the early stages, because the coaches were giving every player regular shifts for the Senior Night game. The Spartans scored one goal in each period and sophomore Kieran DeFoe was involved in all three goals.
The first period goal resulted after DeFoe forced a turnover at center ice, getting the puck to Ryan Kelly. Kelly’s shot hit teammate Antonio Gomez who was battling for position in front of the net. The puck deflected off Gomez and between the skates of Cambridge-Isanti goaltender Meghan Gibb, and into the net. Cambridge-Isanti tied the score with four minutes left in the period.
DeFoe scored with 5:19 left in the second period to break the 1-1 tie. This goal came when he redirected a shot taken by his brother, Jacob.
The score stayed 2-1 until DeFoe scored again with a minute left in the game. John Wiehl was able to poke the puck away from a Cambridge-Isanti skater and DeFoe grabbed the puck, firing it the length of the ice for his second goal of the night.
Gilkerson said it was nice to see DeFoe rewarded for his hard work. He said DeFoe is especially adept at the penalty kill, with a willingness to block opponent’s shots.
DeFoe is one of eight sophomores on the team and Gilkerson said that class’ progress is a reason why the team has improved.
“A lot of it is on the mental side. They’re getting the situational side of hockey,” Gilkerson said.