From the start of the year a month late due to COVID-19 restrictions to avoiding a possible end-of-season quarantine to rallying for wins in their previous two playoff games, the Spartans have survived several pitfalls to end up where they were more than any other Wisconsin. school: at the state tournament.
As I entered the school year, I didn’t think we would be here with what was going on in the world, said Spartans coach Jason Kalin, but I’m super glad I was here with the chance to do something that we could do in a few years.
The second-placed Superior (10-5) will take on the third-placed Lakeland Union (13-4) in the semifinal of a Division 2 state tournament on Thursday at 7:00 PM at the Spooner Civic Center. The winner will advance to the championship game in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday at 9:30 am.
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It is the Spartans’ first-ever appearance since winning a record 13th title in their record 37th tournament in 2015.
The season was full of surprises, but I couldn’t have wished for better, said senior goalkeeper Jamin Durfee. I am just happy to play for high school. Although we had half a season, canceled four games and it was a pretty tough year, I’m glad it happened.
This team reminds Kalin of that team from 2015, which started the tournament with a losing record and left as champion.
We may have had a little more top talent in 2015, but our team’s chemistry is perfect with what we had then, Kalin said. There are many similarities with mental. If you ask most coaches, you want to go into a play-off run with a team chilling in the locker room and on the ice instead of a bunch of guys with loads of (individual) talent. I see them working together every day, and that was what we had in 2015.
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Superior chose to play in Division 2 for the first field of two classes last year, but no one on the team diminishes the performance.
Nobody looks down on the fact that it’s D2, as there’s a lot of stiff competition in both (classes), Durfee said. In my opinion, winning D2 would be as great an achievement as winning D1.
Durfee booked three shutouts during the current seven-game winning streak of Spartans and, like everyone else, is responsible for the team’s success.
He has played great, said junior forward Carter Kalin. He really keeps us in those games. I don’t understand, but some of the rescues he makes are just crazy. That gives us momentum when he makes those big saves and makes us want to go the other way and score some goals for him.
That’s what Durfee did in the Sectional 1 final. Superior was 2-0 behind Rice Lake after two bouts, before rallying to balance the final minute of regulation and win in extra time, but not before the four-foot Durfee made several important saves.
I’m doing my best to keep the team there, Durfee said. If I make a few big saves (in an abbreviated situation), everyone stays in the game. My responsibility as a goalkeeper is to give the boys the best chance to win.
Coach Kalin has spent more time with his keepers and defenders this season and has seen Durfee grow up over the course of the year.
I see a child with confidence, he said. He is our best kid in class and is the backbone of our team all year round. I think he is comfortable and having fun.
Durfee will have even more fun when his younger brother, junior defender Trevor, returns for the first time since breaking his wrist on January 21 against Duluth East. He is medically approved to play, but is wearing a cast.
He wants to play very badly, said Jamin Durfee. Not many people can say they played (in a state tournament) with their younger brother. This is my last year of hockey with him, so it would mean a lot.
I have put a lot of faith in him, which is ironic because we are brothers.
That could be said of the whole team at this point. Despite the distance to be kept during a pandemic, this group of Spartans have gotten closer and are having fun.
I’m having a great time now, said Carter Kalin. All the boys clicked together and were hard at work. We were just happy to be on the ice.
Weren’t afraid of losing; didn’t worry about it. When they entered the locker room after the second period of the Rice Lake game, none of the boys seemed to be concerned about losing. They were all focused on winning.
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