A packed Poppy Waterman Ice Arena left satisfied, if not happy in the latest RWD-Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds hockey battle on Friday night.
A thrilling game came to a sudden end when RWD sophomore forward sank the game winner 6:36 into the eight-minute overtime period with assists for sophomore John Thrasher and junior Danny Ely, lifting the host RWD team to a 2-1 overtime win in a game that both teams wanted badly.
RWD freshman John Scott scored the lone first period goal, from Pfaff and sophomore Grant Marsich but the Baraboo/Portage squad responded with the lone middle period marker, a rebound put in by senior Cameron Logan after the first shot by senior Josh Beale.
RWD Cheavers Head Coach Neil Mattson and David Clark of the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds agreed I postgame comments, the game was and important ‘W’ to carry into the Division 1 Section 3 Seeding meeting held two days later in Tomah.
“Absolutely, this game was the tipping hand for us getting the seven or six seed (RWD ended up with the seventh seed) or Baraboo getting the seven or six seed (Baraboo ended up with eighth seed).
“I’m just proud of our kids. This senior class has never lost to Baraboo,” but the last one might have been the toughest.”
Clark agreed and said there is not a lot of separation.
“Yeah, Neil is right. Fact of the matter is, really seeds six, maybe seven through 10 are all right next to each other, us, RWD, Madison Memorial, Monroe. So, this game would have really given us a good argument for as high as six, now it could be 10, one game could be that important. It’s sad to see it slip through their fingers like that.”
Clark said his team has turned a corner, in particular since the previous meeting with RWD when they were battling illness. Among the recent wins for Baraboo was a 4-3 Badger North Conference win against the Waunakee Warriors on Jan. 30. That stands as the only conference defeat for the Badger North champs with one game to go.
“Yeah, I think it was the first time we played (RWD), mid-January where we cancelled three or four days. I had doctor’s notes stacked on my desk. It was just, the whole team had the flu sort of thing. We kind of got back. It probably took a week and a half-two weeks, but now they’re back to being themselves. I feel for them tonight, because the penalty kill was great until that final moment. You know its hard in overtime to keep that intensity when you’ve been battling for 54 minutes.”
The exciting game couldn’t have come at a better time as the Poppy was jammed with fans from all of the local communities, thanks in part to some off ice activities, including a contest to see which team backers would buy the most hot dogs, a shooting contest between parents from the two teams – fittingly ending in a tie. Also, it was hard to miss the South Central Cyclones jerseys in the crowd as it seemed like the whole organization was watching, including a group of mites that entertained the fans during the first intermission with a mini game.
Coach Mattson was thrilled to see the atmosphere surrounding the game
“Everyone calls it Neil’s circus when Baraboo and RWD play,” said Mattson with a smile, “But, I kind of do it on purpose. It’s supposed to be a fun environment. The three communities are together with hockey now.”
The RWD players hit the ice with bagpipes playing, which Mattson said, along with the Challenge Cup for the first game is “part of the showmanship.
“That’s what you want to do. Just make it a fun environment. It’s great to have a big crowd because the kids feed off the crowds. I was so happy to see how many people we here tonight, it’s awesome.”