Starting tonight, the next seven games for the Somerset boys hockey team will be played against Middle Border Conference opponents.
With the Spartans tied for the MBC lead with Baldwin-Woodville at 3-0, this stretch of games will go a long way toward deciding this season’s conference champion.
Over the holiday break, the Spartans played in the first Bill McGann Holiday Classic in Proctor, Minn. The Spartans won two games in the tournament after losing their opener to the host school on Tuesday, Dec. 28. Somerset got two goals from senior Antonio Gomez and another from Noah Bailey in the loss.
In the second round the Spartans faced Moose Lake and they decided this game quickly. The Spartans scored five goals in the first period on their way to a 10-2 victory. Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said he used the tournament to experiment with different line combinations. In this game, junior Michael Shannon was moved to the top line to play with Gomez and Bailey. They clicked, scoring all five of the Spartans’ goals. Shannon netted three of his four goals in the opening period.
Shannon, Wyatt Connors, Broden Thiel and Owen McDonough scored in the second period, with Bailey scoring the Spartans’ third period goal.
The win moved the Spartans into a contest against North Shore, a co-op team from Two Harbors and Silver Bay. The Spartans took charge in the first period again in a 6-3 victory where the Spartans held a 20-0 shot advantage in the first period. Despite that advantage, the Spartans didn’t score until nearly 11 minutes had elapsed, when Gomez broke through. Connors added the second goal before Gomez struck again.
Gomez is on an incredible scoring tear that has moved him among the leading scorers in the state. In the past nine games, he has scored 22 goals. He has 24 goals for the season. He is an all-around player too. Against Moose Lake he produced six points, five on assists. Gomez and Bailey were named to the all-tournament team.
McDonough scored for the Spartans in the second period, with Brock Sawicki and Gomez scoring in the third period. The Spartans finished with a 45-9 shot edge in the game.
The Spartans are a veteran team, built around nine seniors. The one place the Spartans are young is in goal, after graduating Kaleb Bents, the Most Valuable Player in the conference last season. Taylor Abitz and Finn Davies are the young goalies competing for varsity time. Gilkerson said the Spartans are focusing on keeping the puck away from the front of the net to keep the pressure lower on the goalies.
The depth of the Spartans shows in the forward lines. Gomez centers the first line and McDonough centers the second line.
“Owen’s a center who plays a 200-foot game,” Gilkerson said, referring to the senior’s hustle all over the ice.
The defense is led by Sawicki and Corey Rose, with Jon Brown proving to be a big, physical third defenseman.
The 2022 portion of the schedule starts tonight with the Spartans hosting Hayward, a new addition to the MBC this season. Tuesday, Jan. 11 the Spartans will play at Baldwin-Woodville.