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Spartans start off 2006-07 season 1-1

Every hockey coach wants to see its team improve every time it takes to the ice, and Superior High School boys hockey coach Jason Kalin is no different.

Every hockey coach wants to see its team improve every time it takes to the ice, and Superior High School boys hockey coach Jason Kalin is no different.

After starting last season with six straight losses, Kalin was hoping for a better start to the 2006-07 season, and he got it with a 5-3 win over the Breck School Mustangs.

The luster of the win was tarnished a bit as the Spartans followed that up with a 5-1 loss last Saturday at Eau Claire Memorial.

"We had a poor showing at Memorial, but that may have been one of the healthiest things that could have happened to our program," Kalin said. "We were pretty confident because we have a pretty good team, above average over the last six or seven years. But we just didn't put forth the effort and the kids realize that."

The Spartans get another crack at an in-state opponent at 2:30 p.m. today when they host New Richmond.

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"Our kids will be extremely fired up just because they had it handed to them last week," Kalin said. "They want to rebound with a very positive game."

Kalin, beginning his sixth season as head coach of the Spartans, entered the season with an overall record of 99-27-2.

His 100th win came at Breck.

"I didn't even know it was my 100th victory until coach (Chris) Sislo said something," Kalin said. "I knew it was close, but that's never the situation, I want to win every game.

"We've had some pretty good years, but who cares? It's one step at a time and I just want to win the next one."

Each year the Spartans set three goals: win every game against Wisconsin opponents, win the Lake Superior Conference and then win the Wisconsin state tournament.

"First and foremost we never want to lose to a Wisconsin opponent, but I guess that's out of the question right now," Kalin said.

"I thought we played well against Breck and progressed through the game, but we kind of stepped back against Memorial," SHS junior defenseman Tim Smith said. "We went into the game thinking it was going to be a cakewalk and it wasn't. We took that team too lightly."

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Joining Smith on defense are senior Matt Bombich, juniors Cole Lundgren, Vance Plunkett and Cory Wilander and freshman Chris Bishop.

"We're young, but I think we're looking really good," Smith said.

Starting in goal is junior Kyle Johnson, who drives to school every day from Brule.

"We have a pretty solid team and they've been working really hard," Johnson said. "We have a young defense, but they are all smart, so I have a lot of confidence in the guys in front of me."

Johnson's backups are Matt Miller, Bill Lewis and Tony Ledin.

"Kyle was a great backup goaltender for us last year," Kalin said. "He really performed and never go rattled, especially during his 30-save game for us against Two Harbors.

"We also have three guys vying for a backup spot. We don't know who that will be right now, but with Matt, Bill and Tony Ledin, we have some solid backups."

On offense, the top line currently is Sean Graskey, Brian Pierpont and Pat Dalbec.

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"Those three are our leading scorers, but we also need to get (Nate) Hendry into the mix," Kalin said. "Nate's taking on a bigger role this year because he also likes to play defense. If we get short-handed back there he can help out. He's on the No. 1 power play, a defenseman and he's a winger on the second line. He plays a lot during the game and his responsibility stepped up big time. We're also hoping he gets some goals for us."

Graskey, Pierpont and Hendry are senior captains, while Dalbec is a sophomore. Other forwards Kalin's relying on are seniors David Smith and Nolan VanDamme.

If the Spartans are going to achieve their first goal of winning the LSC, they're going to have their work cut out for them.

"This could be the toughest year in the LSC in very long time," Kalin said. "Duluth Denfeld picked up some kids and Hermantown, who has some workhorses, beat them 6-3. Then you have Cloquet, who beat Minnetonka and South St. Paul, and Duluth Marshall, which just beat Cretin-Durham Hall, the top-ranked team in Minnesota and last year's state champion."

As for winning their second straight state championship last season, the Spartans came up short, losing to Fond du Lac in the quarterfinals. Fond du Lac eventually made it to the championship game, losing to University School.

"Fondy, University and Eau Claire and Stevens Point are going to be really good this year too," Kalin said. "I also believe we're right up there with them, one of the top teams in the state."

To get back to Madison, Superior must go through the likes of Hudson and River Falls, which, according to Kalin, are better this season, and New Richmond, which always has a good squad.

"We have nowhere to go but up," Kalin said. "We're young and we're going to improve at every game and every practice and I think we're going to be pretty good. I could care less what kind of record we have (during the regular season). Sure, we want to do well in the conference, but most importantly I want to be sure these guys are prepared to play in the post season, bottom line. Our school's goal is to go to state and win a championship, period.

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"Spartan hockey is the best in the state and we want it to remain that way."

SPARTAN SPIN: This year's managers are juniors Casey Herubin, Alanna Naughton and Ashley Roske and freshmen Lori Mahan and Karen VanOvermeiren. ... Assistant coaches are Chris Sislo, Matt Christy, Phil Karaba and Pete Flaherty. Sislo, Karaba and Flaherty are all former players under Kalin. "It's nice to have some of the players back, they know the system, they have the pride and they love Spartan hockey, or they wouldn't be here," Kalin said. ... Gone from the coaching staff is Sean Storie, who is coaching Wisconsin's 16-and-under team.

Superior Spartans

Coach: Jason Kalin

Nov. 25 -- at Breck (W 5-3)

Dec. 2 -- at EC Memorial (L 5-1)

Dec. 9 -- New Richmond, 2:30 p.m.

Dec. 12 -- Hermantown, 8 p.m.

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Dec. 16 -- at Wisconsin Rapids, 4 p.m.

Dec. 26 -- at Marshall Tournament

Dec. 27 -- at Marshall Tournament

Dec. 28 -- at Marshall Tournament

Jan. 4 -- Duluth Central, 8 p.m.

Jan. 6 -- EC North, 2:30 p.m.

Jan. 9 -- Silver Bay, 8 p.m.

Jan. 11 -- Cloquet, 8 p.m.

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Jan. 16 -- at Hermantown, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 23 -- at Duluth Denfeld, 8 p.m.

Jan. 30 -- at Duluth East, 8 p.m.

Feb. 1 -- Ashland, 8 p.m.

Feb. 3 -- Hudson, 1 p.m.

Feb. 6 -- at Duluth Marshall, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 8 -- at Proctor, 7:30 p.m.

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