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.