In front of a packed and raucous crowd, the resilient Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks capitalized on their opportunities in the second period to down the host Somerset Spartans 5-3 and earn their first trip to the State Tournament.
The first period was back and forth with Somerset seeming to have the upper hand until late when the Blackhawks were able to spring a 2 on 1. Blake Lokken timed his pass perfectly to Sam Sykora who beat Spartan goalie Taylor Abitz at 14:57.
“The goal was huge just to settle our bench down,” said B-W head coach Lucas Trickle. “ It felt like we were pressing to try and make plays rather than simplifying our game and taking what was given to us. Sam does everything for our team so it was great to see him get rewarded and get the boys going.”
“That was a tough goal to give up at the end of the first,” said Somerset head coach Dan Gilkerson, “but I thought we responded well.”
The Blackhawks kept things going in the second period. A point shot by Gavin Finstad was redirected in front of the net by Bazl Cook to pad the B-W lead to two goals.
Somerset was finally able to cash in at 10:31 in the second when Noah Bailey scored a power play goal with a wrist shot from the top of the circle to beat Hawks goalie Dominic Hite and cut the lead in half.
But that brief swing was followed by three quick goals in just over two and a half minutes by Rhett Schweitzer, Sykora, and Trenton Veenendaal for Baldwin-Woodville that would ultimately prove to be the difference in the game.
“We had a little tough luck there in the second as they scored three goals in three minutes after we were able to get back within one goal,” said Gilkerson. “But our guys continued to play hard and battle.”
The Spartans continued to battle and fought their way back into the game. Abe Sirek scored a power play goal midway through the third period. Then Broden Theil redirected a shot by Antonio Gomez at 11:34 to pull Somerset with two goals at 5-3.
Gilkerson continued, “Being down 5-1 going into the third period, our goal was to get within 2 and pull our goalie at some point. We were able to do that and we had the penalty shot and a lot of great chances to score in the last 5 minutes of the game. Hats off to Baldwin and their goalie on a great game.”
That penalty shot came with just a minute and a half left when a Blackhawk defeseman covered the puck in his own crease after a mad scramble in front of the net. Owen McDonough took the penalty shot but was denied by Hite in a pivotal moment in the game.
Trickle was pleased with his team’s resilience, “It's a testament to our players for their poise and resolve when they are asked to answer the bell. They deserve all of the credit because of the way that they have come together this season and I think the way they care for each other has allowed us to bounce back in situations like this.”
Gilkerson was disappointed with the outcome, but not with his team. “It was a great atmosphere. I was very proud of the way our team played. I am proud of our guys and what they accomplished this season. They really believed in themselves and never thought they were out of any game. We are really going to miss this senior class. Good hockey players and even better people!”
Trickle was pleased with the way his team rose to the occasion, “First of all, Somerset and Coach Gilkerson have an excellent program so we knew we would have a big challenge in the section final. They have a tremendous group of seniors.”
“This is our first trip since becoming a WIAA program in the late 1990's. We're excited to have the opportunity to represent our communities, schools, and the Blackhawk Hockey Association. I am so happy for this group because they have lived through some tremendous heartbreak and they have worked so hard for each and every one of them in the room. They really really deserve it.”