If Superior goaltender Jamin Durfee was nervous as his name was announced at Eau Claire Hobbs Ice Arena Saturday afternoon as the starting goalie against Eau Claire Memorial, he didn't show it.
The sophomore doffed his unadorned white Bauer goalie helmet, stood at attention for the National Anthem, and then proceeded to shut down the home squad while stopping 32 of 33 shots in a 5-1 win for Superior.
The Spartans came into this contest having lost their last two games against tough Minnesota teams (Hermantown and Cloquet).
After missing several practices and two games due to 'global cooling,' the storied squad from upper northwest Wisconsin got right into the thick of things, scoring the game's first counter just over two minutes in.
ECM goalie Mason Swedlund stopped the initial shot, but as the puck lay uncovered just beyond the goalie's reach, Gunnar Hansen punched it back past the left goalie pad for the early 1-0 lead.
"A fast start was what we talked about prior to the game because we had a tough stretch of four periods against two solid opponents, Cloquet and Hermantown," said Superior coach Jason Kalin. "We wanted to rebound with a solid first period against a team on a hot streak. ECM was 8-0 leading up to tonight and we knew it was going to be a tough test."
A few minutes later, Superior's Cayden Laurvick had a point blank chance, but Swedlund made the stop to keep the deficit at one.
The score remained 1-0 until just less than five minutes left, when Superior took advantage of a pair of ECM penalties to tally on a 5-on-3 power play.
Taylor Burger found himself alone on the backdoor and after a couple quick passes, the senior forward beat the goalie glove side for the 2-0 lead with 4:10 left in the period. Trevor Dalbec and Spencer Gudowski got helpers on the play.
Three minutes later, Andrew Roberts had a rebound on his stick for the Old Abes, but Durfee turned aside the effort to keep the hosts off the scoreboard.
The Spartans held a two-goal lead as they skated off, even though ECM held a 14-11 shot edge in the period. ECM goalie Swedlund appeared to be favoring a hand or wrist after a collision with Max Curtis sent him backwards into the right post with a few minutes remaining.
Superior held on for dear life in the middle period, as they found themselves on the PK four times in the stanza, but scored the only goal to take a 3-0 lead.
With just under three minutes left, the Spartans rushed in on a 3-on-1 break and after grabbing a pass in the slot, Laurvick beat new ECM goalie Joe Berg high blocker to give 'Sup' a 3-0 lead. Hansen and Jakob Holmlund earned assists on the play.
"Cayden and Gunnar have been working very well together, especially with Grant (Sorensen) between the two of them," said Kalin. "All three guys really compliment each other."
The period ended with that score as ECM held a 10-6 shot advantage.
Early in the final period, the freshman team of Carter Olson and Peyton Platter would team up as Platter tapped in a rebound for the appetizer goal as ECM cut the lead to 3-1 just 53 seconds in.
Unfortunately, that would be Memorial's final hurrah.
After a penalty on each team and a pair of missed chances by ECM, Superior went ahead 4-1 in the middle of the period on a power play goal.
Hansen was the recipient of a pass, and although he didn't get good wood on his one-timer attempt, it was just enough to sneak past the ECM goalie at the midway point. Laurvick and Alex Hanson got helpers on the play.
Then the scorecard read four penalties between 7:49 left and 4:15 left, and although ECM had nearly a minute of 5-on-3 play, Durfee and Company kept them out of the net to maintain the three-goal lead.
"Although it was Jamin's first varsity win, his play wasn't surprising," noted Kalin. "Jamin is a competitive goal tender and plays big in big games so we look to him to provide support throughout the rest of the season."
Berg came out of the net with 2:02 left to play for the extra attacker, but as often happens, the opponent puts one into the undefended goal. Laurvick fired a puck from just past center ice to account for the 5-1 final.
Superior held a 12-9 shot edge in the final period.
Swedlund (9) and Berg (15) combined for 24 saves for ECM.
Fourth-ranked Superior improves to 16-5, while the Abes lose for the first time after winning eight straight. They drop to 14-7-2.