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Spartans advance to WIAA hockey semifinals

MADISON - The Superior High School boys hockey team advanced to the semifinals of the WIAA Boys State Hockey Tournament, but it didn't come without a third-period scare from the Kettle Moraine-Mukonago Lasers Thursday afternoon at the Alliant Ene...

MADISON - The Superior High School boys hockey team advanced to the semifinals of the WIAA Boys State Hockey Tournament, but it didn't come without a third-period scare from the Kettle Moraine-Mukonago Lasers Thursday afternoon at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

The Spartans led 2-0 after two periods, then saw the Lasers make things interesting with a goal 32 seconds into the third. The Lasers eventually outshot Superior 14-3 during the final 17 minutes, but the Spartans added a pair of goals in the final 2:49 to pull off a 4-1 victory before a crowd of 3,805.

"We're happy with the victory, but we also know we got a little lucky," said SHS coach Jason Kalin. "In the third period, they dominated us. Their goal really gave them a boost and put our kids in a shell. Then we started to panic a bit in the defensive zone."

The Spartans (15-9) next play the undefeated Tomah Indians in one semifinal game at 5 p.m. on Friday. The Indians (22-0-2) opened the tournament with a 3-2 victory over the Homestead Highlanders.

Kettle Moraine outshot Superior 31-26, but Spartan goaltender Kyle Johnson was superb with 30 saves.

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"Kyle played great, he's been solid throughout the playoffs," Kalin said. "He had great position, and he made saves when we needed him to make saves. We're very pleased with his play. Now we have to carry that into the next game."

Offensively, the Spartans got a pair of goals from John LeDoux and single goals from Brian Crawford and Sean Graskey.

"It feels pretty good," LeDoux said. "It's my first state tournament, and I just want to help my team win as many games as possible."

Crawford scored the Spartans' first goal at 10:40 of the first period when Matt Bombich's shot from the left point hit Crawford's skate and got by Laser goaltender Dustin LeClaire. The goal was Crawford's ninth of the season.

"I was in the right place at the right time. I got a little lucky, but I'll take it," Crawford said. "I was hoping for a rebound, but was lucky enough to get it off a skate.

That goal also helped quiet down Kettle Moraine's student section, which at least tripled that of Superior's after the snowstorm in the Twin Ports forced the cancellation of the Spartans' fan buses.

"They had a loud crowd, but that first goal helped quite them down a bit," Crawford said.

It went to 2-0 at 14:11 when Wade Berkseth forced a turnover behind the Laser goal, LeDoux picked up the loose puck and eventually stuffed the puck past LeClaire for his third goal of the season.

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"After Wade went in and hit the guy, the puck was just sitting there," LeDoux said. "I had a lane to the net, I really didn't have much (too shoot at), so I just tried tucking it in. Somehow it snuck through."

After a scoreless second period, KMM made it a 2-1 game 32 seconds into the third when Sam Frank put a wrister over Johnson's glove from the left circle.

"We were running all over," Kalin said. "We had four guys low, and they moved it out to the point and over to the weak side. It was a great goal, but we didn't have anybody out there. We need to play our positions and be poised in our defensive zone."

A pair of power plays helped the Lasers control most of the third period, that is until SHS leading scorer Sean Graskey skated around a couple of KMM defenders and beat LeClaire with 2:49 remaining.

"That was a nice goal and gave us a cushion," Kalin said. "I was pleased with our play in the first period and the first half of the second, but after that they took it to us. We have a tired group of boys. Now we have to regroup for Friday."

With the Kettle Moraine goal empty for the extra attacker, Berkseth's attempt at a goal was blocked. But LeDoux picked up the loose puck and put it in from neutral ice.

"The puck was rolling, I was tired, crossed the red (line) and hit it on net," LeDoux said. "Wade set up both of my goals, all the credit goes to him."

The loss ends their season with a 20-2-1 record.

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"Our kids stayed focused and stayed poised," Lasers coach Chris Duncan said. "We made some mistakes in the first period and we had to figure out how to fix them. We made some adjustments, but when your back's against the wall, you'll respond or you won't and the boys did. I'm really proud of them."

SPARTAN SPIN: While Superior is participating in its 30th state tournament, it was just the second for Kettle Moraine. ... Tomah, the Spartans' opponent Friday, is making its first appearance in Madison. The Indians have been close a number of times, including losing four sectional championship games in the past six seasons. ... LeClaire, also the goalie for Team Wisconsin's before and after team, finished with 22 saves. ... The night quarterfinals had Stevens Point (23-0) taking on Fond du Lac (21-2) and Eau Claire Memorial (23-0) playing Madison West (17-6). ... Fond du Lac is coached by Ryan Sarazin, a former UW-Superior Yellowjacket and Spartan assistant coach. The girls state tournament begins Friday with Northland Pines taking on Chippewa Falls/ McDon. Central and Onalaska facing Appleton.

Kettle Moraine/Mukwonago 0 0 1 -- 1

Superior High School 2 0 2 -- 4

First period: 1. SHS, Brian Crawford 9 (Matt Bombich 8), 10:40. 2. SHS, John LeDoux 3 (unassisted), 14:11.

Penalties: Bombich, SHS, int., 2:52. JD Frank, KMM, interference, 12:10

Second period: No scoring.

Penalties: Frank, KMM, slashing, 9:09. Andrew Mattson, SHS, hooking, 12:26.

Third period: 3. KMM, Sam Frank (Andy Biwer), :32. 4. Sean Graskey 20 (Pat Dalbec 19), 14:11. 5. LeDoux 4 (Wade Berkseth 5, Mike Plummer 2), 16:11.

Penalties: Berkseth, SHS, hooking, 4:44. Spencer King, KMM, holding, 9:32. Bombich, SHS, interference, 10:15.

Saves: Dustin LeClaire, KMM 10-10-2-22. Kyle Johnson, SHS, 6-12-12-30. Att: 3,805.

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