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PREVIEW: Spartans open season at E.C. Memorial tourney

Superior High School goaltender Caden Welch keeps an eye on the puck during a game last season at Wessman Arena. Helping out is senior defenseman Braden LaPorte (23). The Spartans open the season tonight at the Eau Claire Memorial Tournament. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Goals will once again be at a premium for the Superior High School boys hockey team this season.

The Spartans return four of their top six scorers from last year’s team, but those players combined to score just 14 goals (15 assists) on a team that finished with a record of 3-20-1.

“We’re going to need help scoring from everybody, even Caden (Welsh) and our goaltenders,” SHS coach Jason Kalin said. “We have guys that can score, but they just have to get the opportunity to do so. We’re going to rely on our defensemen to get the puck to the net and then train our forwards to be better in front of the net with tips, screens and rebounds.”

Last year’s team averaged just 1.79 goals a game while getting outscored 94-43.

The Spartans scored just seven goals on the power play, compared to 27 for their opponents.

Junior captain Max Plunkett is the top returning scorer with 10 points on six goals and four assists. Sophomore Trevor Dalbec was fifth in scoring (1-6-7), followed by senior TJ LaFlamme (4-2-6) and sophomore Grant Sorenson (3-3-6).

“Max has made some big gains in the summer and fall as far as leadership roles,” Kalin said. “He had a very good football season and we think that will carry over into the hockey season.”

Superior’s top scorer last season was Shane Tetzlaff (3-8-11), who graduated.

Kalin is also looking for sophomore Tyler Nelson to help out on offense. The son of former Spartan and UMD Bulldog Tom Nelson had three goals and an assist in 10 games before suffering a season-ending injury.

Superior’s other returning forwards include seniors Brock Gilbertson (1-2-3) and Andrew Parkinson (0-0-0); juniors Tucker Stamper (1-0-1) and Kaleb Ullan (0-0-0); and sophomore Cayden Laurvick (1-0-1).

The defensive unit is led by senior captains Braden LaPorte and Tanner Sterling. LaPorte (1-4-5) has been a varsity player since his freshman year and was a captain last year.

“Braden’s a good leader, he leads by example and is a role model,” Kalin said. “He’s excellent in school and in the community, and his performance on the ice speaks for itself.

“Tanner’s a quiet leader. The kids chose him because he is a respectable kid, they just like him. He’s also one of those guys that is well-rounded, a happy-go-lucky kid that is a good defenseman. He also leads by example.”

Other returning defensemen include juniors Luke Drougas (1-4-5), Blake Hanson (0-0-0) and Ty Christianson (0-0-0) and sophomore Max Curtis (0-0-0).

“I think we’re pretty well rounded,” Kalin said. “We have six solid defensemen; we have three forward lines that can go; we’re deeper on special teams; and we have two solid power plays. The only question mark at this point will be our penalty kill.”

The success of the penalty kill ultimately relies on who plays in goal.

Junior Caden Welch returns after compiling a 2-20-1 record with 90 goals allowed and a .878 save percentage. Superior’s other goaltenders include senior Brendan Crayne, junior Gunnar Gronski and sophomore Dayton Podvin.

“Welch has been our go-to guy the last year or so, including when he backed up Payton Flanders on our state championship team as a freshman,” Kalin said. “Last year we relied on him heavily, and even though we gave up a lot of goals, it wasn’t always Caden’s fault. Our goals against average was around four or five, but a lot of that had to do with us spending too much time in the penalty box.”

Crayne had a 1-0 record in 18 games last year.

“Caden’s a solid goaltender and we look to start with him,” Kalin said. “But Brendan worked hard in the offseason, he’s a heck of a kid and his strength has improved immensely. Then we have Gunnar and a new guy in Dayton Podvin, who’s looking pretty promising.”

The Spartans are coming off a season that included five one-goal losses and four two-goal losses, and ended with an opening-round playoff loss to Somerset.

“Our record didn’t tell the whole story,” Kalin said. “We were in a lot of games last year, but we lacked the experience, the scoring capability, and we had some trouble with leadership at times.

“I think our talent has gotten older and we’ve gotten more experienced. We have good leadership in place and our locker room is a sign of good things to come.”

Kalin and the Spartans will get a chance to see how they match up against some of the top teams in Wisconsin this weekend at the Eau Claire Memorial tournament.

Superior opens against No. 1 Wausau West (22-4-1 last season) at 6:30 p.m. today. The other semifinal game is No. 2 ECM (23-4-3) vs. No. 5 Green Bay Notre Dame (11-14-1).

“Our best learning opportunity will be this weekend in Eau Claire,” Kalin said. “Our goal every year is to get to the state tournament, but road to state is getting harder and harder, and it will be an uphill battle. Hudson has five kids on Team Wisconsin and is getting better every year and then there’s Somerset, who beat us last year with a young team.”

Another Spartan goal is to win a Lake Superior Conference title.

Kalin sees Cloquet-Esko-Carlton as the team to beat, along with Hermantown.

“Cloquet is going to be phenomenal this year, they’re the team to beat,” Kalin said. “Hermantown’s always good, but Cloquet has young kids, ninth and 10th graders, that are going to be really good.”

The Spartans tuned up for the season with the LSC jamboree Tuesday night at the Heritage Center in Duluth.

SPARTAN SPIN: Because of low numbers, Duluth Denfeld will not field a JV team this season. … Kalin’s assistant coaches are Rob Downs, Ryan Hendry, Evan Nelson and Caleb Dushkin. … The managers are Lexi Johnson, Maddy Graham, Jordyn Olson, Rylie Colborn and Alyssa Stuart and Jaxon Hoffman is the statistician. … Superior’s cheerleaders are Claudia Androsky, Makayla Bender, Jessica Burggaller, Stefanie Goad and Olivia Knutson. They are coached by Emily Kelly.

 

Superior High School

2016-17 Boys Hockey Roster

1  Gunnar Gronski................ 11     G     5-11     190

2  Tyler Gucinski................... 10     F      5-3      113

3  Tyler Nelson..................... 10     F      5-7      130

4  Cayden Laurvick............... 10     F      5-8      140 

5  Jakob Holmlund................ 10     D     5-10     155

6  Max Plunkett (A)............... 11     F     6’2”     185

7  T.J. LaFlamme.................. 12     F      6-2      180

8  Luke Drougas................... 11     D      6-1      175

9  Brock Gilbertson............... 12     F      5-6      140

10 Grant Sorensen................ 10     F     5-10     155

11 Blake Hanson................... 11     D      6-0      155

12 Ian Johnson..................... 10     F      6-0      130

13 Kaleb Ullan...................... 11     F      6-1      175

14 Alex Hanson..................... 9     D     5-10     135

15 Tanner Sterling (A)............ 12     D     5-11     185

16 Tucker Stamper............... 11     F      5-7      165

17 James Bronson................ 10     F      6-0      165

18 Keagan Rice.................... 10     D     5-11     150

19 Ty Christianson................. 11     D      6-0      155

20 Joe Eliason...................... 11     F      6-1      175

21 Trevor Dalbec.................. 10     F      5-9      165

22 Derrick Mattson................ 10    F/D    5-10     155

23 Braden LaPorte  (C).......... 12     D      5-6      188

24 Max Curtis...................... 10     D      6-0      165

25 Tiegan Roden.................... 9      F      5-8      125

26 Taylor Burger................... 10     F      5-9      145

27 Andrew Parkinson............ 12     F      5-4      145

28 Tanner Paine.................... 10     D      5-9      170

29 Austin Buck..................... 10     F      5-9      140

30 Caden Welch................... 11     G     6-1      215

33 Dayton Podvin................. 10     G     5-9      145

34 Christopher Hoivik.............. 9     D     5-10     125

35 Brendan Crayne............... 12     G     5-6      138

36 Nathan Peterson............... 10     D     5-11     225

2016-17 Boys Hockey Schedule

Eau Claire Memorial Tournament

Fri., Nov. 25........... vs. Wausau West, 6:30 p.m.

Sat., Nov. 26.......... vs. ECM/Notre Dame, TBD

Tue., Nov. 29.......... vs. Rice Lake, 7 p.m.

Sat., Dec. 3........... vs. Antigo, 3 p.m.

Tue., Dec. 6........... vs. Chippewa Falls, 7 p.m.

Sat., Dec. 10.......... at Menomonie, 3 p.m.

Tue., Dec. 13.......... vs. Cloquet, 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Dec. 17.......... vs. Hudson, 4 p.m.

Tue., Dec. 20.......... at Proctor, 7:30 p.m.

Thur., Dec. 22......... vs. Denfeld, 7:30 p.m.

Green Bay Notre Dame Tournament

Dec. 27-29............. vs. TBD (3 games)

Thur., Jan. 5........... at Marshall, 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Jan. 6............. at Two Harbors, 7 p.m.

Sat., Jan. 14.......... at Eau Claire North, 2 p.m.

Tue., Jan. 17.......... at Hibbing, 7:30 p.m.

Thur., Jan. 19......... at Greenway, 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Jan. 21.......... at Hudson, 3 p.m.

Fri., Jan. 27............ at Cloquet, 7:30 p.m.

Tue., Jan. 31.......... vs. New Richmond, 7 p.m.

Thur., Feb. 2.......... at Duluth East, 7:30 p.m.

Tue., Feb. 7........... vs. Hermantown, 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Feb. 11.......... at Eau Claire Mem., 2 p.m.

Tue., Feb. 14   WIAA Regional

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