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Stunned Spartans fall in OT

Superior High School’s Tucker Stamper (16) gets thrown to the ice by Eau Claire North’s Ryan Venne (2) after a first-period scrum during the Spartans’ 4-3 overtime loss Saturday afternoon at Wessman Arena. (Jed Carlson / 1 / 7
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Sam Stange’s goal with 3:25 remaining gave the Eau Claire North Huskies a 4-3 win over the Superior High School boys hockey team Saturday afternoon at Wessman Arena.

The Huskies’ win over the Spartans was their first since a 4-3 victory during the 1998-99 season. Since then, Superior had won 11 straight and now leads the all-time series 30-4-1.

“Tonight opened up a few eyes,” SHS coach Jason Kalin said. “We were bad all the way from the back end to the front end. We made some really dumb mistakes, mistakes we really shouldn’t be making at this point of the season.”

Superior seemed to be on its way to a win in regulation when Taylor Burger’s goal with 4:30 remaining gave the Spartans a 3-2 lead.

But the Huskies forced overtime when Jack Echternach put home a rebound with 2.1 seconds remaining.

ECN’s Jeffrey Pippenger, who scored the Huskies’ first goal, hit the cross bar 3:01 into overtime. He then assisted on the game-winner when he got the puck to Stange, whose shot from the left circle went off the pad of Spartan goaltender Caden Welch and went in just inside the right post.

The Spartans don’t have much time to dwell on the loss as they host Hibbing Tuesday, Greenway Thursday and Hudson Saturday.

Hibbing is only 5-7 this season, but the Blue Jackets have dominated the Spartans and lead the all-time series 16-2.

Superior’s second win over Hibbing came last season when Braden LaPorte scored with 1:20 remaining in a 4-3 win. Superior’s only other win over Hibbing was 4-2 during head coach Jason Kalin’s junior season (1990-91).

Greenway is 12-4 overall and in first place of the Iron Range Conference at 4-0. Superior and the Raiders have only played once, a Greenway 5-4 win last season.

Hudson, the defending state champions, is ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin with a 13-0 record. The Raiders defeated Superior 2-1 on Dec. 2 in Hudson.

“We don’t have an easy game the rest of the way,” Kalin said. “The good news is that the next three games are at home.”

If the next three games aren’t tough enough, Superior’s remaining schedule includes Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, New Richmond, Duluth East, Hermantown and Eau Claire Memorial.

CEC is 11-5-1 with recent wins over Duluth Marshall and Eden Prairie; New Richmond (11-2) is in first place in the Middle Border Conference; East (9-0-3) is ranked No. 1 among large schools in Minnesota; Hermantown (7-3-2) has an eight-game unbeaten streak and is No. 1 among small schools in Minnesota; and ECM (11-2-1) is ranked No. 5 in Wisconsin.

“Cloquet is playing unreal right now and you know Hermantown is going to be a tough match,” Kalin said. “We have a really good team in this locker room, even though tonight we didn’t show it. I don’t know why, but hopefully we can figure it out because we’re going to have to be ready to play every single night.”

The Spartans jumped out to 1-0 lead 2:52 into Saturday’s game when Tucker Stamper took a behind-the-net pass from Taylor Burger and scored on a high wrist shot from between the circles.

The score remained the same through the first period, which saw the Spartans kill off two ECN power plays and the Huskies have a 10-8 shot advantage.

Eight seconds after Welch came up with two saves after a Spartan turnover, it went to 2-0 when Superior won the ensuing face off and Max Plunkett scored on a breakaway with assists from Blake Hanson and Stamper.

The Huskies cut the Spartans’ lead in half when Pippenger finished off a 2-on-1 breakaway and Stange. Ryan Venne also assists on Pippenger’s 10th goal of the season.

ECN tied it up with 27.1 seconds left in the second period when Luke Olson scored on a one-timer from the slot after a pass from Stange.

Burger’s go-ahead goal was ruled unassisted, but it came after Stamper had two whacks at the puck near the left post. Burger eventually picked up the loose puck behind the net and stuffed it inside the right post.

ECN eventually pulled its goalie with 19 seconds remaining and Welch covered up a loose puck with 11.5 seconds left.

After ECN used its time out, the Huskies won a scrum along the near boards and the puck popped out to Venne, who put a shot on net. Welch mad the save, but the rebound went to Echternach who had a clear net to shoot at.

Welch and ECN goaltender Tyler Schreiter both finished with 26 saves.

SPARTAN SPIN: The JV game ended in a 1-1 overtime tie.

Eau Claire North............ 0     2     1      1  —     4

Superior....................... 1     1     1      0  —     3

First Period – 1. SHS, Tucker Stamper (Taylor Burger), 2:52.

Second Period – 2. SHS, Max Plunkett (Blake Hanson, Stamper), 4:41. 3. ECN, Jeffrey Pippenger (Sam Stange, Ryan Venne), 9:00. 4, ECN, Luke Olson (Stange, Pippenger), 16:33.

Third Period – 5. SHS, Burger, 12:30. 6. Jack Echternach (Venne), 16:58 (6-on-5).

OT – 7. ECN, Stange (Pippenger, Echternach), 4:35.

Saves: Tyler Schreiter, ECN, 7-11-8-0—26. Caden Welch, SHS, 10-6-9-0—26.