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Spartans still hungry after strong campaign

The Southern Oregon Spartans exited the 2015-16 hockey season with a hunger to add to their list of accomplishments.

The Spartans were swept in two tight matches by the Missoula Maulers in the Western States Hockey League Thorne Cup best-of-three divisional semifinals, ending a strong campaign that gave second-year head coach David Cole plenty of optimism for the future.

Southern Oregon finished in third place in the WSHL Northwest Division with a record of 33-18-1 and went 17-9 on its home ice at The RRRink.

"We are already starting recruiting for next year and our intention is we want to take another step forward," Cole said.

Eighteen Spartans have re-signed with the franchise, including rising star Chris Seto. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound left-winger is tied for fifth in the 29-team league in points with 107 as the postseason continues. The teenager is third in goals with 56, and he also had 51 assists.

Riley Roberts of the Colorado Eagles also has 107 points.

"He does so many things well," Cole said, adding that the Canadian has generated interest from several colleges. "He skates well, is a great puck handler, has a tremendous shot and works extremely hard. He is a rock-solid all-around player. He'll have some options, whether he returns to Canada or stays in the states. He has two more years (to play in the WSHL). His intention is to return to Southern Oregon."

Missoula claimed 5-4 and 6-5 triumphs to advance to the the divisional finals, where the Maulers are playing the Idaho Jr. Steelheads. Those two clubs finished above the Spartans in the Northwest Division during the regular season.

"We lost two close games on the road with five guys who couldn't play in the series," Cole said. "We'd like to think we are are moving forward and are very close."

Against the Seattle Totems in the opening round, Southern Oregon's Cameron Cross had the go-ahead goal as the Spartans swept with a 2-1 win. Southern Oregon, a Tier III Junior A franchise that has participated in the WSHL the last four seasons, has defeated Seattle in two matches in the quarterfinal round two straight years.

The Spartans began their season with a challenging road stretch.

"We spent the first 12 matches or so on the road, so that makes it tough," Cole said. "I think we just had a young team, but for them to perform how they did bodes well for us."

Last season, the Spartans made it to Game 3 of the division semis before falling to Maulers, 3-2 in overtime.

At a recent awards banquet, Seto was named the team's most valuable player. Canadian Brody Surette earned defenseman honors and Ashland's Paiute Morrison, a forward/defenseman, was rookie of the year.

Canadian Drew Carriere was presented a team award for his contributions to the community. The center came on strong during the playoffs, recording eight points on three goals and five assists for the third most points during WSHL postseason play.

"He is a player who has progressed very nicely," Cole said. "He's a big man at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, and he's fast."

Guillaume Beaulieu of Canada was honored with a team award for toughness, and Medford's Cy Jenson was recognized for community service and on-ice performance.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt