Engel surprised by coaches leaving Northland College

With files from Northland College.

When Kaylee Engel announced she would be attending Northland College in the fall, Head Coach Kelly Rider played a big part in that decision.

A recent announcement though from the College has Rider leaving the program.

 Kelly Rider has stepped down from her position as the head coach of the women’s hockey program at Northland College to pursue other professional opportunities.

Rider was the first ever women’s hockey coach at Northland.  She started the program in 2015 and recently saw her original recruiting class graduate this past season.  In her second year in charge, Rider’s program beat Adrian College who was ranked #2 in the country and coming off of an appearance in the NCAA National Championship.  Rider improved the program year after year and in 2019 guided the Jills in their inaugural season into the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which is regularly regarded as one of the top hockey conferences in the country. 

“It’s been an honor to be part of the building of Jills hockey with all of our players the past 5 years,” said Rider.  “I’m proud of each player’s individual growth on and off the ice and thankful for all their time and efforts. It’s been special to watch the development and growth as a program, from the first commitment, the first game, the first win, the first graduates, and now the next generation of Jills hockey. I’m excited to see all that the program and players continue to accomplish.”

Engel said Rider and her Assistant, Kaylee Harnen played a big part in her ultimate decision to become a Lumberjill and the news of her leaving the program came as a surprise to her.

“(I was) very surprised, but I wish them the best in the future,” said Engel in a typed interview.

“Coach Rider and Coach Harnen both had a big influence on my decision to go to Northland. Coach Harnen helped me so much throughout the recruiting processes and they both welcomed me with open arms.”

While wishing the coaches well, Engel is determined to take advantage of the opportunity that she has landed no matter who is being the bench.

“I have been able to talk to many players on the team, both returning and incoming and we are all very excited to see where the hockey program will go and are very excited to play this upcoming season,” said Engel.

“Coach Rider has been an instrumental figure in constructing our first ever women’s hockey program and we wish her luck in her next chapter,” commented Interim Athletic Director Seamus Gregory.  “Through her hard work she made what was essentially a dream become a reality. Northland College Women’s Hockey is one of the pillars of our department with a thriving roster and from the diligent efforts of Coach Rider it will remain that way forever. The student athletes we have on our current roster and our incoming players will continue the strong tradition she built and move the program forward in a very positive direction in the WIAC and beyond.”

A national search is currently underway for the head coaching position.  The Jills will be returning for their second year in the WIAC, and they have already announced a large recruiting class from across North America. 

“We have an unbelievable hockey community here in the City of Ashland,” commented Gregory.  “The support is phenomenal for both our hockey programs and we look forward to the national search for our next Head Coach.”

The Badger Lightning captain this past season, Engel is one of four players with Sauk County ties to make the jump to the NCAA Tier 3 level this fall.

Jordan O’Connor who collected 20 wins in goal for the Sauk Prairie Eagles varsity team and helped them reach the Sectional semis will be a rival for Engel, patrolling the crease for the UW-River Falls Falcons in the WIAC this season.

Reedsburg native Julianna Teske, who played AAA hockey with the Madison Capitols before attending high school in Warroad, MN, committed to play at Augsberg University in the MIAC this fall.

Sebastian Frank attended Wisconsin Dells High School and played his freshman season with the RWD program before moving on to a junior stint in the USPHL with the Minnesota Mullets recently committed to play in the MIAC as well, with Gustavus Adolphus.


Awesome off-season storylines for every team in Sauk County

By Jim den Hollander



It has been a weird summer for a hockey fan.

While I have always considered that stretch between April and September as the ‘off-season’ with little to no hockey activity, I was surprised to find its actually not hard to miss the game, even when the ice is out of most arenas.

This summer in particular has been rough, as the 2020-21 hockey season becomes more highly anticipated by the minute.

Many youth players extend their season, trying out for area teams of all competition levels and for coaches and scouts of junior hockey teams is generally almost as hectic as the regular season with Showcase style weekends planned across the country as they work toward putting the next season’s team together.

It might be a little tougher this season for some junior teams with the absence of the weekly events, but the Ducks are in good shape with a solid number of returners and a core group brought by the new coaches – Shaun Falzone, Anthony Rohde and Brian Guevara – from the Dallas area.

The excitement of the local High School coaches is contagious – RWD varsity Head Coach Neil Mattson is definitely a glass half-full personality. If you see him in June or July of any off season, he will beam while telling you how good the upcoming RWD team will be. How can you not look forward to the season after speaking with him?

I have not head nearly as many interactions with Baraboo/Portage Head Coach, David Clark, but he also seems supremely confident in the ability of his charges and they definitely play their best for him. Sauk Prairie Eagles Head Coach David Lohrei is coming off a season featuring likely the greatest graduating class in the team’s history, led by Riley Jelinek who topped the state in scoring.

There were several other seniors that got the team to the Sectional semis and while there will no doubt be a bit of a drop off, the future bodes well as last season’s bantam Flyers enjoyed a strong season, wrapping up at the State Championship tournament.

The Badger Lightning won just a few games last season, but it was a bounce back season. Head Coach Rick Capener will miss his six graduating seniors but he also will benefit from a solid group of players who played prominent roles on their respective Badger Lightning youth teams. It might take a while, but help is definitely on its way.

In the Youth leagues, the rivalry should intensify with the dissolving of the South Central Cyclones and the return of Baraboo Youth Hockey and the forming of the RWD Youth organization. That means the RWD vs. Baraboo/Portage matchup that creates so much excitement during the varsity season will no be in effect right down to the Squirt level of play.

All of this hockey talk has this reporter getting anxious to stand at the glass once again.

We are a week from June and that will bring some action on the ice at various locations.

Stay tuned.

Don’t cry for the Cyclones

By Jim den Hollander

Saukhockey.info Publisher/Editor

One of my goals in starting Sauk Hockey is to celebrate the game locally. In fact, that is my primary goal, my main goal, maybe my only goal.

In other words, I am not looking for any ‘scoops’ or trying to uncover any scandals. I see a lot of hockey websites out there now, particular in the junior field, that have a clear mandate, being pro league ‘A’ while bashing league ‘B.’

I spent nearly three decades as a sports reporter/editor at weekly, tri-weekly and daily newspapers and a little more time at a magazine. I always hated the controversial stuff. Maybe that made me a bad reporter. I have to say, I did enjoy getting the scoop on competitor publications but I was mostly about sharing facts, scores, stats and good news.

To that end, I scrapped a planned story on the dissolution of the South Central Cyclones. I interviewed representatives of Baraboo, Reedsburg and Wisconsin Dells youth hockey organizations and of course, I ended up with three different views. I put off doing the story and ultimately scrapped it. Instead of bemoaning the end of the Cyclones, I have decided to embrace the return of Baraboo T-Birds and RWD Youth Hockey and the return of the rivalry to the youth level. If you have seen an RWD vs. Baraboo-Portage varsity game in the past 10 seasons, you know, that is an awesome rivalry.

I loved the Cyclones. When the group started three seasons ago, I was excited about seeing our players get a chance to practice and play with others at their own level of competition.

The first season was great too as the Cyclones held their own with programs from Janesville, McFarland and Oregon.

I remember having a conversation with someone who I respect a great deal early on about the program. That person was not a fan of the co-operative effort and I absolutely was. They wondered why it became necessary as, at one time all three communities had healthy youth programs and now needed to rely on each other.

That stayed with me because I thought it was a very good point. There is no doubt, at least in the area (Dells/Delton) I am most familiar with – numbers are down in the past decade or so. I don’t need access to registration figures to see that.

Numbers are down in general for a lot of sports in the Dells community, I mean, there are less students than there was 20 years ago and I am not sure what the reason is for that – And the purpose of my rant here is not really to go into detail on that.

All I am saying is —  my mandate since I moved here many years ago has always been to try to make the sport more popular in the community. It is just such a great game; I want more people to enjoy it. When I moved here, I had a hard time dealing with the fact there were many out there that didn’t really care about the game. I just couldn’t understand it and I always felt that if someone were to be around the game for a while, they would fall in love with it.

I know now, hockey is not for everyone and I have (begrudgingly) accepted that fact.

But I still want to promote this game as much as I can. If it is hockey and its in Sauk County, I want to use this platform to promote it, making people aware and hopefully, excited about it.

One thing that the dissolving of the Cyclones has done is created – at least for the male players – a direct feeder system from mite to varsity – with RWD (Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells), Baraboo/Portage and Sauk Prairie as the beneficiaries. For the females, the Badger Lightning is now the lone team in the area. All three organizations are feeding into the Lightning. Based on the success of the Sauk Prairie Monkeys and Badger Lightning organizations, in particular at the younger levels, the varsity Lightning could be heading into some great seasons down the road.

The opportunity is there for youngsters – This season, no less than four players with local ties will begin freshman seasons at NCAA Division 3 schools which they will represent on the ice.

Their accomplishments and the success of a revitalized Dells Ducks junior hockey team will hopefully work hand in hand with the varsity programs to make more and more youngsters ask for skates this Christmas.


— This is the first of many opinion columns from Jim den Hollander who hopes to turn Saukhockey.info into a source of information and entertainment for hockey fans in Sauk County.