Photo: Jed Carlson/Superior Telegram
Several beers and a few hours of sleep later, I stand by my semi-hysterical assessment of last night's game between Superior and River Falls.
It was, in the words of Greg Mills, a shattering experience. I've already written at length regarding the almost Minnesota-like atmosphere at Wessman Arena--hundreds in attendance, a first-class facility, synchronized chants of "We Are Superior" several times a period--but none of those positives can surpass the action that took place on the ice.
Superior is young, with nine sophomores and one outstanding freshman on the varsity squad, but to a man they are a talented bunch. Strong skaters, phsyical, well-coached; it's no surprise they dominated the first half of the game, badly outshooting the Wildcats from River Falls.
But the visitors simply wouldn't go away, even after falling behind on a Nolan Holcomb power play goal at the start of the second stanza. They concentrated on shutting down the Spartans explosive offense for the rest of the game, hoping to take advantage of the few scoring chances they could muster on the rare counterattack.
This is exactly what they did at the end of the second period, scoring on a goal that I didn't see because I was futzing with my camera and thought the period was over. When I looked up there was no time on the clock, but a 1 under the VISITOR section of the scoreboard. The River Falls players and fans went ballastic. The momentum had defintiely shifted.
It was a great third period, with both times working hard for excellent scoring chances. Dylan Dock was clearly the best player in a yellow jersey, pulling spectacular rink-long rushes out of the seat of his breezers just when you thought the double-shifting senior had to be out of gas.
There were some spectacular hits, including one where fast-breaking Wildcat Karl Anderson didn't notice Spartans defenseman Andrew Bronson coming off the bench and skated headlong into a bone-jarring check that could be heard all the way up to the cheapseats. Anderson kept his dignity all the way back to the bench, where he crawled over the boards and disappeared from sight for several seconds. But the kid didn't miss a shift; this was, after all, the playoffs.
There was also some shattered glass and at least one brearded stranger shrieking like a bee-hive-hairdoed seamstress at a Beatles concert.
But it wasn't Ringo that had me shrieking. It was River Falls goaltender Garrett Jensen, who single-handedly kept the clearly superior (pardon the pun) Spartans from getting home before curfew. He ended up with 57 saves on the night. Spartan goalie Joel Pettingill saw a lot more rubber in the latter half of the contest, particularly in overtime when at least three River Falls scoring chances ended with a pile of players stacked like cordwood in his crease, and the crowd roaring loud enough to sway the Spartan banners in the rafters.
The game finally ended in the first seconds of the fifth overtime when Spartan defensemen Chris Bishop faked a slapshot from the blueline, deked his way around a River Falls defender, and blasted a shot over Jensen's right shoulder. Four hours after the opening faceoff, the game was over. The Spartans were moving on. The Wildcats just looked like they needed some IVs before they could make it out to the bus home.
What a game! Hold your heads high, fellows. Every one of your left it all on the ice, just as this humble reporter leaves it all at an all-you-can-eat lutefisk boil.
God bless Wisconsin High School Hockey!