Spartans advance to sectional final (updated)
The Superior High School boys hockey team took another step toward a state hockey tournament berth with a 5-2 win over the New Richmond Tigers Tuesday night at Wessman Arena.
Standing in the way of the Spartans’ 38th trip to Madison are the Hudson Raiders, who are ranked No. 1 in the state with a record of 23-2-1.
The Raiders have won 13 of their last 14 games with the only blemish a 1-1 overtime tie with Superior on Jan. 24.
Hudson’s path to Saturday’s sectional championship game at John Gornick Arena in Hudson includes wins of 13-0 over Amery and 10-0 over Somerset.
The Spartans, who opened the playoffs with an 8-0 win over the Northwest Icemen, took a 3-1 lead over New Richmond in the first period.
“Everybody’s going to have come ready to play on Saturday,” SHS senior captain Braden LaPorte said. “Hudson’s a good team, and they capitalize on every chance they get. So we’re going to have to minimize our mistakes and take care of our chances.”
The Spartans took care of their chances early in the first period Tuesday as Max Plunkett and Tyler Nelson scored the first two goals on identical plays thanks to nifty behind-the-net passes.
Tucker Stamper set up Plunkett’s 13th goal of the season at 7:52. Max Curtis helped set up the goal with a pass to Stamper from the corner.
“After the pass from Curtis, I saw Plunkett behind my back and he buried it,” Stamper said.
Taylor Burger assisted on Nelson’s eighth tally of the year two minutes later with the second assist going to Blake Nelson.
New Richmond cut the lead in half with a similar goal as Nick Johnson, who was behind SHS goaltender Caden Welch, fed the puck out front to Dane Swanda, who scored his eighth goal at 11:09.
Just when it seemed like the opening period would come to an end, New Richmond was called for icing with 6.7 seconds on the clock, which led to a faceoff to the left of the Tiger goal.
Stamper’s slap shot off the faceoff was stopped by Tiger goaltender Jake Erickson, but the rebound went to Grant Sorensen, who whacked the puck home with 4.1 seconds showing.
“I just thought about ‘Let’s get it to the net and get another one before the end of the period,’” Stamper said. “We had it all planned out — it worked out, I guess.”
Spartan coach Jason Kalin was impressed with the goal.
“Tucker picked it clean and almost scored himself,” Kalin aid. “Grant then came in and knocked it out of the air. It was a sweet play.”
After Superior outshot New Richmond 15-4 in the first period, shots were 6-5 in favor of the Tigers in the second. New Richmond scored the only goal of the period when Brady Werner scored after Blake Kretovics won an offensive faceoff at 4:09.
“After a very good first period we came out and got the first six shots on net (in the second),” Kalin said. “But they got that goal off the faceoff and it kind of took the wind out of our sales and pumped them up a little. There was a little momentum shift, and they took it to us a little the rest of the period.”
The Spartans regrouped in the third period and a couple of unassisted goals helped seal the victory and improve to 12-12-2 on the season.
“I thought the boys handled the adversity we faced in the second period, with our penalties and their goal off the faceoff,” Kalin said. “We came out flying in the third period.”
Trevor Dalbec scored off his own rebound at 2:28, and LaPorte celebrated his 18th birthday with his fifth goal with 5:29 remaining.
Dalbec’s scoring play started with his shot from the top of the left circle. The sophomore made his way toward the net, found the puck laying in the middle of a bunch of players and put it home for his seventh goal of the year.
LaPorte’s tally came when his slow shot from the left point snuck through traffic and between Erickson’s legs.
“It felt good,” LaPorte said. “I’m a senior, it’s my last home game in this ice arena and it’s actually my birthday today. It was really icing on the cake, especially coming out with the win.”
Welch picked up the win in goal with 15 saves. Erickson had 24 saves for the Tigers, whose season ends with an 18-8 record.
Saturday’s game is scheduled for 2 p.m. at John Gornick Arena in Hudson.
“Hudson’s always a tough team, especially this year,” LaPorte said. “They’re ranked No. 1 in the state so we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game on Saturday.”
Besides the 1-1 tie with Superior, the only blemishes on Hudson’s schedule are a 4-3 loss to Eau Claire Memorial and a 2-1 loss to Minneapolis. Their record also includes a 3-2 win over Superior on Jan. 21.
Chase Blackmun is Hudson’s leading scorer with 14 goals and 33 assists for 47 points. Aaron Grounds leads the Raiders with 26 goals, along with 16 assists for 42 points. Also scoring in double figures is Grady Gornick with 18 goals and Cole Danielson with 10 goals.
Dan Lienmann is Hudson’s leading scorer in the playoffs with four goals and two assists.
Nelson, a sophomore, leads the Spartans in scoring with 32 points (8 goals, 24 assists). Right behind are Taylor Burger (13-16-29) and Plunkett (13-13-26). Dalbec also had seven goals and Sorensen and Stamper had six goals apiece.
“The goal is win, we’re here to win,” Kalin said. “If we play clean and stay out of the box, we have a good chance of knocking off Hudson on Saturday.
“We know it’s going to be a physical battle, a speed battle. We have to make sure we back-check, and make sure we have good clears and good dumps when we’re crossing the red line. We’re going to have to put it deep because we can’t give them any odd-man rushes.
Anthony Howard has had to make just 10 saves in his two playoff wins in goal for Hudson.
During the season Howard is 14-0-1 with a goals against average of 0.89. Also for the Raiders, Henry Baribeau is 7-2 with a 0.93 gaa.
“We lost our first game to them and tied the second one, so now all we have left is a win,” LaPorte said.
SPARTAN SPIN: Saturday’s game will be carried live on WNXR 107.3 FM and www.wnxrfm.com. ... SHS will pre-sell tickets for Saturday’s game in the activities office (room B-1) from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. All tickets are $5.
New Richmond................ 1 1 0 — 2
Superior......................... 3 0 2 — 5
First Period – 1. SHS, Max Plunkett 13 (Tucker Stamper 4, Max Curtis 3), 7:52. 2. SHS, Tyler Nelson 8 (Taylor Burger 16, Blake Hanson 6), 9:56. 3. NR, Dane Swanda 8 (Nick Johnson 18), 11:09. Grant Sorensen 6 (Stamper 5), 16:56.
Second Period – 5. NR, Brady Werner 7 (Blake Kretovics 14), 4:09.
Penalties – Stamper, SHS (tripping), 8:16. Stamper, SHS (high sticking), 14:39.
Third Period – 6. SHS, Trevor Dalbec 7, 2:28. 7. SHS, Braden LaPorte 5, 11:31.
Penalties – Kretovics, NR (tripping), 3:26. T.J. LaFlamme, SHS (cross check), 6:24. Johnson, NR (interference), 12:44.
Saves – Jake Erickson, NR, 12-5-7—24. Caden Welch, SHS, 3-5-7—15.