The New Richmond boys placed four players on the 2019-20 All-Middle Border Conference hockey team, while Somerset earned three spots on this season’s All-MBC team.
New Richmond placed senior defenseman Garrett Thomas on the all-conference first team. Somerset had senior Beaudee Smith and junior goaltender Kaleb Bents placed on the first team.
Earning honorable mention status from New Richmond were sophomore Brock Unger and freshmen Blake Milton and Easton Schmit. Somerset had sophomore Antonio Gomez selected as an honorable mention player.
Amery finished as the 2019-20 conference champion. Amery senior Jackson Henningsgard was the conference’s Most Valuable Player.
Thomas was put in charge of an extremely young group of defensemen for the Tigers this season. In his fourth year on the varsity team, Thomas was ready for the responsibility. He led the team’s defensemen in scoring, ranking third on the team in goals scored (six) and points (14).
As a two-year captain, Thomas played with poise while understanding he was needed to use his quickness to be a main contributor in the offensive zone. Tiger coach Zach Kier said Thomas’ skills are probably better suited to be a forward, but he’s always been needed as a defenseman and has grown with the role each season.
With a sophomore and two freshmen, the future is bright for the Tigers. Kier said the growth of these three players will figure largely into the team’s plans for next season.
Unger led the Tigers with 13 assists while finishing second in goals scored and total points. He led the Tigers with six power play goals. Kier said it’s Unger’s effort level that sets him apart.
“Nobody wants it more than Brock. He’s gritty, he goes to the net, he doesn’t care if he’s going to get hit,” Kier said.
Milton won the starting goaltending job in the pre-season and proved he belonged there. Milton earned all nine of the Tigers’ wins, with an .871 save average.
“Blake was put into a tough situation with a very young team,” Kier said. “All he did was get better every game. We’re unbelievably excited for him going forward.”
Schmit was another of the young players whose games grew with each game. His confidence and willingness to step into a more offensive role grew with each game. He finished fourth on the team in points with 12 and his nine assists were second on the team.
“I’m not sure there’s anyone who competes harder,” Kier said of Schmit. “He protects the puck better than anyone on the team. Besides Garrett, I think he was our best defenseman.”
Smith, Bents and Gomez filled the lead roles for the Somerset team that grew markedly in the second half of the season, resulting in the program’s first trip to the WIAA State Championships.
Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said the shift of Smith from forward to defense was the move that jump started the Spartans’ progress. Smith led the Spartans with 22 goals and 41 total points. His five power play goals were also the most on the team.
Bents emerged as a sophomore as a top goaltender in the area. Gilkerson said Bents didn’t play at his usual standard at the start of the season, but he caught fire at midseason. Bents had a 95 percent save percentage in the playoff games that led Somerset to the state tournament. He finished the season with 15 wins and an .892 save percentage.
Gomez was the leading scorer among Somerset’s forwards, finishing with 15 goals and 13 assists. Gilkerson said Gomez’s speed helps the Spartans to make quick transitions to offense. Gilkerson said Gomez has shown the ability to rise to the occasion, scoring several of the Spartans’ most important goals this season.