What a time to score your first varsity goal.
Superior High School junior Ian Johnson, who didn’t touch the ice during the first three periods, scored with 5:03 remaining in the second overtime to give the Spartans a 4-3 win over the New Richmond Tigers in a WIAA sectional semifinal game Tuesday night at Wessman Arena.
“Amazing, it feels great,” Johnson said. “I’m just happy for the way my team supports me and helped me score that goal.”
The Spartans (14-10-2) now play the state’s top-ranked Hudson Raiders (24-1-1) in the sectional final at 2 p.m. Saturday in Amery.
After taking a pass from Kaleb Ullan, Johnson lost control of the puck, dove at it, and managed to poke it through Erickson’s legs for the game-winner.
“We just kept the puck in the zone, I dove, swatted at it and the next thing I knew I looked up and it was in the back of the net,” Johnson said.
Johnson, a fourth liner for the Spartans, got his chance to play when senior captain Max Plunkett was given a 5-minute major penalty and a game disqualification for head contact with 5:33 remaining in the third period.
“Before that second overtime session we said somebody in this room is going to be a hero,” SHS coach Jason Kalin said. “This reminded us of Brian Santori’s goal in double OT against Chippewa Falls way back in 2003, just before we won the state championship.
“It’s pretty cool, and I’m very happy the way Ian filled Max’s skates and contribute like he did.”
Plunkett’s penalty, along with a minor penalty on Gunnar Hansen 34 seconds earlier, put New Richmond on the power play for the remainder of the third period, including a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:26.
The Spartans killed off both penalties, which forced an eight-minute overtime and then a 17-minute second overtime.
“I have to say that was a gut check moment for our team,” Kalin said. “We’ve been in situations like that before this season and haven’t handled as well as we would’ve like to, but that PK was about as clutch as it could have been.
“The boys showed a mental toughness that has been missing at times this season and they handled the last 5:30 brilliantly, well enough to push the game into OT. It turned out to be the pivotal moment for our team.”
New Richmond outshot Superior 12-8 in the second OT, but that’s when Welch was at his best.
“Caden had a solid game,” Kalin said. “He’s had a couple of up and down games, I’m so happy for him. He stepped up in a situation like this and when we needed him the most in that second overtime he came through.”
Both goaltenders were busy Tuesday with Superior’s Caden Welch finishing with 48 saves and New Richmond’s Jake Erickson stopped 35 shots.
After a brief feeling out period by both teams at the beginning of the game, action picked up around five minutes in when Tucker Stamper hit a post. A long rebound led to a 2-on-1 breakaway for New Richmond, which was stopped by Welch.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead at 11:39 of the first period when Noah Tuberman won a battle for a puck behind the net and threw it out front to Eric Langer, who was alone near the right post. Brady Werner also assisted on Langer’s 33rd goal.
The opening period ended with Welch making a save with 15 seconds remaining followed by a Spartan 2-on-1 that ended with Taylor Burger shooting wide.
Fifty-five seconds into the second period Superior found itself skating shorthanded after a Tucker Stamper tripping penalty.
Eighteen seconds into the Tiger power play, Superior’s Cayden Laurvick stole the puck and broke in alone on Erickson, who made the save, but had to look for the puck and eventually found it under his pads.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead at 7:04 of the second period when the puck got separated from a Spartan at neutral ice, which led to Jens Christiansen’s break-away goal.
The Spartans failed to score on back-to-back power plays, but they seemed to pick up some momentum and it paid off at 14:27 when Trevor Dalbec took a behind-the-net pass from Stamper and scored on a one-timer from the slot, cutting the Tigers’ led to 2-1.
Superior’s momentum carried over into the third period and Hansen took advantage of it as he scored goals 1:38 apart to give Superior a 3-2 lead.
“Our line has been playing well,” Hansen said. “In between periods we talked about how this could be the last time we played together so we knew we had to step it up.”
Hansen tied the game 2:11 into the second period when Erickson got a glove on a shot by Drougas, but dropped the puck and Hansen was there to poke it home.
Hansen nearly scored again seconds later when he tried stuffing the puck inside the left post. He couldn’t get his stick on the puck, but drew a penalty which eventually led to his power-play goal at 3:49.
“On the first goal Drougas shot from the point and I was just able to tap home the rebound,” Hansen said. “On the near goal, I just missed it.
“Then on the second goal, I was just skating down on a 3-on-2, Tucker fed me, I saw I had the guy beat a little bit and took a shot. I was just hoping it would be on net and it went in — top shelf.”
The Tigers matched that power-play goal at 5:23 when Towberman put home a loose puck after Langer’s shot was blocked by a Spartan defender.
SPARTAN SPIN: Superior is 67-3 all-time in home playoff games. Four of the wins were in OT. … The Spartans and Tigers skated to a 4-4 tie on Jan. 30 in New Richmond. … Tickets for Saturday’s game with Hudson will be on sale until noon today in the SHS treasurer’s office (enter in the front of SHS through door No. 1). All tickets cost $5. … Johnson’s first varsity point was an assist on James Bronson’s first varsity goal in a 4-1 loss to Eau Claire Memorial on Feb. 10. ... Hudson advanced with a 5-1 win over Baldwin-Woodville. ... Superior is 16-12-1 all-time vs. Hudson, including 1-7-1 over the last three seasons. ... Superior’s last win was 2-1 in the 2015 sectional championship (Hudson won both games during the regular season). ... Superior is 29-4-1 all-time against New Richmond.
New Richmond 1 1 1 0 0 — 3
Superior 0 1 2 0 1 — 4
First Period — 1. NR, Eric Langer 33 (Noah Towberman, Brady Werner), 11:39.
Penalties — Ben Karno, NR (hooking), 6:58. Cayden Laurvick, SHS (cross check), 12:11. Nick Johnson, NR (illegal equipment, broken stick), 12:48. Trevor Dalbec, SHS (slashing), 12:51.
Second Period — 2. NR, Jens Christianson, 7:04. 3. SHS, Dalbec (Tucker Stamper), 14:27.
Penalties — Tucker Stamper, SHS (tripping), 0:55. Gunnar Hansen, SHS (cross checking), 4:32. Towberman, NR (tripping), 7:36. Karno, NR (holding), 10:33.
Third Period — 4, SHS, Hansen (Luke Drougas, Laurvick), 2:11. 5. SHS, Hansen (Stamper), 3:49 (pp). 6. NR, Towberman (Langer, Chris Lubow), 5:23 (pp).
Penalties — Garrett Thomas, NR (cross check), 2:29. Ty Christianson, SHS (hooking), 4:47. Hansen, SHS (interference), 11:27. Max Plunkett, SHS (head contact, 5-minute major and game DQ), 12:01.
OT — No scoring.
Penalties — Karno, NW (interference), 5:23.
2nd OT — 7. SHS, Ian Johnson (Kaleb Ullan), 11:57.
Saves — Jake Erickson, NR, 8-12-5-3-7—35. Caden Welch, SHS, 13-6-15-2-12—48.