Spartans open ‘new’ season with win
“A new season, a new us,” is what Superior High School senior defenseman Luke Drougas said after the Spartans defeated River Falls 6-1 in the opening round of the WIAA playoffs Thursday night at Wessman Arena.
After struggling through the final month of the regular season with a 0-6-1 record, there were plenty of questions swirling around wondering if Superior would be able to straighten things out in the postseason.
The Spartans answered those questions right away as Max Plunkett scored 19 seconds into the game and Grant Sorensen made it 2-0 a minute later.
“Our quick start was huge,” said Drougas, who had four assists, including one on Plunkett’s goal. “When we got that first goal I knew we were ready to go. The feeling on the bench, and the attitude everybody had, was great.
“It always feels good to get that first one, especially when you’ve been down. A new season, a new us.”
The Spartans also got a pair of 5-on-3 power-play goals from Trevor Dalbec and a goal apiece from Cayden Laurvick and Tucker Stamper as they improved to 13-10-2 on the season.
River Falls (5-14-1) spoiled Superior’s shutout bid when Logan Graetz put home a rebound with 4:52 remaining.
The Spartans will host New Richmond in the sectional semifinals at 7 p.m. today. New Richmond advanced with an 8-1 win over Menomonie.
The winner will play either Hudson or Baldwin-Woodville in Saturday’s sectional final in Amery.
Superior and New Richmond skated to a 4-4 tie on Jan. 30.
The Spartans took a 2-0 lead over the Tigers and then trailed 4-2 before tying it up with goals from Plunkett and Taylor Burger. The teams skated through a scoreless third period and overtime.
“It’s always a competitive hockey game when we play New Richmond,” SHS coach Jason Kalin said. “Whether either team is up or down, and we’re pretty even this year, it’s always a battle.
“They have a lot of senior leadership and will be coming after us. We’re going to have to be sharp, disciplined and can’t make any mistakes.”
After the Spartans won the opening faceoff Thursday against River Falls. Drougas raced down the right wing and centered the puck to Plunkett, who scored on a one-timer from the slot.
On the next shift passes from Blake and Alex Hanson were followed by Sorensen skating behind the net and stuffing the puck inside the right post.
The Spartans struck early again in the second period on Laurvick’s short-handed goal at 29 seconds.
Laurvick started the scoring play by blocking a clearing attempt at neutral ice. After losing the puck in his jersey for a split second, he passed it to Sorensen, who returned the pass for a perfect give-and-go goal.
“Me and Grant were working really hard,” Laurvick said. “When I blocked the pass it hit me in the stomach area. Once I controlled the puck, I passed it over to him, he slid it right back and I just buried it home.”
Less than a minute later Superior went on a 5-on-3 power play for 4:41 when River Falls took back-to-back major penalties 20 seconds apart.
While the Spartans struggled early with the two-man advantage, they eventually straightened things out with Dalbec tipping in two goals within a span of 21 seconds.
“We were trying a different power play and it wasn’t working, so we switched it back and were able to get a couple,” Drougas said. “Dalbec isn’t usually out there, but he was put out front of the goalie and got the job done.”
It went to 6-0 at 3:22 of the third period when Stamper found a loose puck just outside the crease and slapped it high into the net.
Senior Caden Welch stopped 19-of-19 shots through the first two periods for the Spartans. Dayton Podvin had two saves in the third period.
Jake Miller stopped one shot before being replaced by Jack Decheine, who finished with 32 saves.
SPARTAN SPIN: SHS will pre-sell tickets for Tuesday’s game from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the SHS treasurer’s office. Tickets are $5 for students and adults, $1 for children 6 years of age or younger. This is a WIAA event and no passes are accepted.
River Falls 0 0 1 — 1
Superior 2 3 1 — 6
First Period — 1. SHS, Max Plunkett (Luke Drougas, Max Curtis), 0:19. 2. SHS, Grant Sorensen (Blake Hanson, Alex Hanson), 1:22.
Second Period — 3. SHS, Cayden Laurvick (Sorensen), 0:29 (sh.). 4. SHS, Trevor Dalbec (Drougas, Ty Christianson), 4:10 (5-on-3). 5. SHS, Dalbec (Drougas, Plunkett), 4:31 (5-on-3).
Third Period — 6. SHS, Tucker Stamper (Derrick Mattson, Drougas), 3:22. 7. RF, Logan Graetz (Jake Bergmanis, Max Morrow), 12:08.
Saves — Jake Miller, RF, 1-x-x—1. Jack Decheine, RF, 11-8-13—32. Caden Welch, SHS, 2-11-x—13. Dayton Podvin, SHS, x-x-2—2.