The Superior Spartans scored a power play goal at 4:38 in the third period to break a 2-2 tie on their way to a 4-2 win over the Janesville Bluebirds in their quarter-final matchup at the Alliant Energy Center on Thursday afternoon.
Superior’s speed allowed them to stretch the ice coming out of their own end. The Spartans also won the races to most of the loose pucks and forced the Bluebirds into making costly turnovers, eventually out-shooting Janesville 27-14 for the game.
Two minutes into the first period, Janesville turned the puck over in their own zone. Troy Shold intercepted the puck just inside the Bluebirds blue line, sidestepped a Janesville defenseman and cruised in on Jessie Heize in the Janesville net. Shold got to just above the crease and roofed a wrist shot over Heize’s shoulder.
A couple minutes later, Daniel burger and Tyler Nystrom came into the Bluebirds zone on a two on one. The Janesville defenseman laid out to cut off the passing lane. Burger waited until he was by the prone defender, then passed to Nystrom, whose one-timer was too quick for Heize.
Superior ended the period up 2-0. Heize recorded 7 saves in the period, while Spartan goalie Peyton Flanders stopped all five shots he faced.
Janesville mounted a comeback and evened the score in the second period. Connor Perkins got it started when he came in as the right half of a two on one. Using his teammate as a decoy, Perkins was able to drive the net and roof a shot over Flanders’ glove hand.
Late in the period, Janesville put a shot up high on net and Flanders got his blocker on it, deflecting it up and in front of the net. The puck hit Harrison Henschler on its way down, and he managed to poke it into the net. Or so it seemed. The goal prompted the first ever booth review in tournament history to determine if Henschler propelled the puck into the net with his hand, and the officials determined that he did not.
Superior spent the rest of the period putting furious pressure on the Janesville goal, but was unable to score, a trend that has plagued the Spartans much of this season. Heize made 8 saves in the second, while Flanders stopped 3 shots.
The first power play goal of the day came off the stick of Grant Hanson four and a half minutes into the third to break the tie. The senior defenseman took a wrist shot from the right point through a couple of Spartan screeners to put Superior back on top 3-2.
An empty net goal by Beau Reder with 30 seconds to go sealed the game for Superior. Daniel Burger set it up. Burger forced the puck up the ice and chased it all around the Janesville zone before sending it out in front of the net where Reder just had to catch the pass and slide it into the abandoned net.
The Spartans will now face Cedarburg on Friday evening at 5:00 to see who will play in Saturday’s Championship game.