They're back ... Spartans return to state hockey tournamentCrawford stops 12 shots in Superior's 3-0 win over New Richmond
By: Ken Olson, Superior Telegram
AMERY — One year after losing to New Richmond in the sectional championship game, the Superior High School boys hockey team returned the favor Saturday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over the Tigers at the Amery Ice Center.
“The New Richmond game from last year has been in the back of our minds and in our conversations for the entire year,” SHS coach Jason Kalin said. “It’s been our motivation to get back to the sectional finals and play New Richmond again for the sectional championship.”
The Spartans got their wish and didn’t waste their opportunity as they got goals from Dane Sislo, Gerald Mikel and Daniel Litchke and shutout goaltending from Scott Crawford to earn a berth in this week’s WIAA Boys State Hockey Tournament in Madison.
“This game’s been on our minds for a very long time,” Kalin said. “New Richmond is a hard team play against in the sectional finals, because they do go so hard. They keep attacking you and that’s their game plan. So it was difficult to get up on them. It took us a while, but we eventually managed to get a couple by their goaltender.”
The Spartans (15-9-1) will play Green Bay Notre Dame Academy, a 2-0 winner over Bay Port, in the 6 p.m. quarterfinal game of the state tournament Thursday at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.
“We’ve only lost to one Wisconsin opponent all year long and that’s been Notre Dame Academy, twice,” Kalin said. The Tritons defeated Superior 2-1 in the Duluth Marshall Holiday Tournament and 5-2 three weeks later in the Showdown in Titletown tournament in Green Bay.
New Richmond, which snapped Superior’s string of nine straight sectional championships last season, ends the year with a 16-10 record.
Superior outshot New Richmond 6-1 in a scoreless first period.
One shot that didn’t count for the Tigers was Max Skatrud’s slapshot that beat Crawford, but hit the right post while New Richmond was skating on a power play.
“That scared the crap out of me, I didn’t know what was going on,” Crawford said. “But we came back and my defense played unbelievable all game. They held pucks, got the rebounds and blocked shots.
“It’s great to get a little revenge. They ended our streak last year, but we were able to come back. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum up heading into state.”
The game remained scoreless midway through the second period until Dane Sislo scored his fifth goal with an assist from Richard Mikel.
Sislo started the rush with a lead pass between a New Richmond’s players legs to Mikel, who worked his way through the crease, but when left with an angle to shoot at, he passed the puck behind his back to Sislo, who had an empty net to slide the puck into.
“Richie made a great play, dropped it back to me and I had an open net,” Sislo said. “I actually stayed out on the ice a little longer than my line mates. We had a rush, so I just stayed out there and things worked out.”
The Spartans took a 2-0 lead 6:52 into the second period when Steven and Richard Mikel worked the down low before centering to Gerald Mikel, who put home his own rebound for his 10th goal of the season.
“I’m speechless,” Gerald Mikel said. “Last year we didn’t get to go (to state) and it was disappointing to everyone. But it was a wakeup call for us and this season all the work paid off. We have some work left to do in Madison, though.
“It was special scoring with assists from by brothers, but Litchke’s goal was huge. That’s when we knew the game was over.”
Litchke’s goal, with 1:15 remaining, came after he took a long pass from senior defenseman Brett Bukowski, beat a New Richmond defenseman and put the puck between the legs of New Richmond goaltender Jacob Hilby.
“On that last one they were forcing the play and got two guys trapped, which gave us a 4-on-2 advantage,” Kalin said. “They were gassed and Daniel beat them to the outside. That’s his bread and butter.”
Crawford finished with 12 saves for Superior while Hilby had 22 for New Richmond.
“Scotty may be a bit unpredictable as a goaltender, but when he gets into a rhythm he’s as good as anyone,” Kalin said. “He made some great saves today and earned his shutout.
“They probably had about three or four good scoring opportunities, but our guys did a good job of going out and sacrificing themselves. I’m very happy with the way the entire team played. We played disciplined hockey on all lines.”
SPARTAN SPIN: Litchke leads Superior in scoring with 26 goals and 22 assists for 48 points. Holcombe is one point back (18-29-47). … All of Superior’s games in Madison will be carried live by WNXR 107.3 FM. … Five of Superior’s nine losses have been to No. 1 ranked teams. The Spartans have lost to Notre Dame (ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin) twice, and Duluth East and Hermantown (ranked No. 1 in Class AA and Class A, respectively, in Minnesota).
New Richmond 0 0 0 — 0
Superior 0 1 2 — 3
First Period: No scoring.
Penalties: Aaron Miller, SHS (hooking), 15:43.
Second Period: 1. SHS, Dane Sislo 10 (Richard Mikel 7), 6:18.
Penalties: Austin Zywiec, NR (holding), :48. Tyler Lagerstrom, NR (hooking), 10:29.
Third Period: 2. SHS, Gerald Mikel 10 (Richard Mikel 14, Richard Mikel 8), 6;52. 3. SHS, Daniel Litchke 26 (Brett Bukowski 16), 15:45 (pp).
Penalties: Daniel Litchke, SHS (hooking) :42. Kaleb Kier, NR (interference), 1:44. Jarek Manske, NR (slashing), 14:36.
Saves: Jacob Hilby, NR 6-11-5—22. Scott Crawford, SHS 1-5-6—12.
WIAA Boys State Hockey Tournament
Thursday, March 1
Eau Claire Memorial (21-4-2) vs. Brookfield (?-?), noon
Wausau West (18-7-2) vs. Marquette Univ. (22-5), 2:15 p.m.
Superior (15-9-1) vs. Notre Dame Academy (24-3), 6 p.m.
Sparta (?-?) vs. Verona (25-1-1), 8:15 p.m.
6 and 8:15 p.m.
Saturday, March 3
Championship game, 2:15 p.m.