“Low” was a key word in the Somerset hockey vocabulary Thursday.
Cycling the puck low and keeping their shots low was all part of the Spartans’ plan to keep Black River Falls’ goal total low. The plan worked, as the Spartans shut out Black River Falls to win their WIAA Division 2 playoff opener, 6-0, at the Somerset Ice Arena. The Spartans were scheduled to be in action again in the sectional semifinal on Tuesday, facing the winner of Friday’s game between River Falls and Viroqua.
Low figured into the scouting report done by the Somerset coaches. They watched video of several Black River Falls games and saw that the Tigers’ goaltender struggled to stop shots that were low or on the ice. So there was a constant chorus from the coaches during the game, reminding the players to keep their shots low.
Keeping the puck deep in the Black River Falls zone also was a key point in the Spartans’ plans. Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said they didn’t want to give up any breakaway possibilities, especially to the Tigers’ top line. By keeping the puck buried behind the goal line, it gave the Spartans time to react to any of the Tigers’ breakout attempts.
By keeping the puck deep in the zone, the Spartans generated 46 shots in the game, compared to 26 for Black River Falls. Spartan goalie Kaleb Bents stopped all 26 of them for the shutout.
Somerset scored twice in each period. The first goal came 10 minutes into the game. Antonio Gomez received a puck at the blue line. He saw A.J. Simpkins skating full speed to the blue line, so put the puck in Simpkins’ path. Simpkins skated past the defense and put his shot past the BRF goalie.
With two minutes left in the period, Noah Bailey got control of the puck behind the Tigers’ cage. He circled around the net and put a shot between the goalie’s skates.
Owen McDonough scored on a tip-in four minutes into the second period and Beaudee Smith scored on a shot from the blue line later in the period. Kieran DeFoe and Jordan Brown scored in the third period.