Neil Mattson secured a milestone win on Thursday, collecting the 300th win as a varsity coach, mostly with the RWD Cheavers.
The RWD arrangement has been in place for the past decade and before that Mattson coached with John Blosenski on another Cooperative team effort with Baraboo/Portage. In the first seasons, the team was simply the Reedsburg Beavers.
It seemed fitting the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders were the opponent for the milestone win which should someday open the door for Mattson’s inclusion in the WAHA Hall of Fame. One of RWD’s biggest wins so far – its first Sectional Championship came at the South Wood County Recreation Center in Wisconsin Rapids in 2010. While that game and the other Sectional title, won against Baraboo-Portage in Onalaska, sticks out for this writer, Coach Mattson has a hard time picking favorite games.
“So many (games) over the years,” said Mattson in a texted interview. “Watching the program develop and grow (was satisfying). One of my favorite seasons, we went 1-20 playing with nine players,” said the coach adding the most satisfying part of that season was the ‘1’ came against Baraboo.
“Two years later we won conference back-to-back. Winning the two Sectional championships is a highlight. Getting two state twice was a great accomplishment for a small town,” said the Coach. “What inspires me the most is coming every day to the rink and work with these young me and all the great coaches we have. When it is no longer fun is when I will step aside.”
There were some thoughts, the milestone could have been reached last season and while it is not really a distraction to anyone, Mattson said it was nice to get it out of the way quick this season.
“Yes, getting 300 gets the monkey off my back,” summed up the Coach who will begin his quest for 300-plus tonight (Tuesday) when the Cheavers take on the Sauk Prairie Eagles at RACA.
RWD varsity Cheavers have taken two out of its first three contests and have likely already faced its toughest opponent for this season.
Last Thursday (December 3). The Cheavers collected a 2-1 win in its annual early season match against the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders.
It was a big night for Ty Thompson, a defenseman known more for his play in his own end. Thompson’s seeing eye shot from the point made it through a crowd and into the short side of the goal for a powerplay marker to put the locals up 8:44 into the opening period.
After the Raiders responded with a powerplay goal just 82 seconds from the end of the middle period, the Cheavers racked up the game winner on yet another powerplay, this time Thomson playing a set-up role on Danny Ely’s third goal of the season.
Trevor Slaght and Ely — who has now played a part in six of the team’s first seven goals this season – collected assists on the Thompson goal.
In goal, Cooper Oakes turned aside 20 of 21 shots faced for his second win of the season.
Head Coach, Neil Mattson was not surprised by Thompson’s offensive showing and said (in a texted interview) he expects to his number on the game sheet more often this season.
“Ty Thompson will continue to get better each game. Once he starts to communicate better eh will be one of the better defensemen we have,” said Mattson. “He is a great kid.”
In the past, games with the Red Raiders had added importance as the teams were in the same Sectional pool, but Coach Mattson said he thinks this season might see the importance return.
“(There is a) good chance it could have seeding implications as I feel the sections may chance because of the teams not playing.
“But more importantly, I have held a very high regard for Wisconsin Rapids and Coach (Pat)McDonald. We played them 14 years ago for the first time in playoffs and lost 9-2. I will always remember looking at the banners in that rink and hoped one day we could have the same for the young men that have played for us. Today, we have eight Conference titles, two Sectional Championships, GPA honors and several Sectional runner ups.”
Cheavers 0 @ Fond du Lac Springs 6
RWD hit the road for the first time Saturday and saw its season-opening streak shut down with a 6-0 loss to the Fond du Lac Springs Ledgers, defending WIAA Division 2 State champions.
Heading into the contest, Mattson said he looked forward to the tough assignment as despite a state championship the previous season, the Ledgers have several returners and have several players that have drawn attention from scouts up to the NCAA Division 1 level.
“We just need to play smart and not have too many turnovers,” said Mattson heading into the contest. “I am excited to play a team like this. I always like the challenge for the team. We have nothing to lose in this game. Go in, have fun and most importantly, it will make us a better team. I am proud of these young men and all that have come before them.”
The Ledgers improved its own record to 2-0 with the 6-0 win in a game that saw the home side hold a 40-9 edge in shots on goal.
Brady Welch led the winners with a two-goal game and the Ledgers not only shutout the Cheavers on the scoresheet, they also put up a 17-0 margin in shots in the first period, a rarity at this level of play.
Following a busy opening week, the Cheavers head home to play the Sauk Prairie Eagles at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) Tuesday, the first of three against conference rivals on home ice.
For the Eagles, the game will be their season opener. Beaver Dam Golden Beavers will follow on Friday night and the following week will see the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds paying a visit. While the Cheavers are playing home and away games against these teams this season, there is no Badger North Conference championship or all-Conference honors. DeForest Norskies are not playing in the WIAA this season and it appears the Waunakee Warriors are playing a limited schedule.
Improvements and baby steps continue to show up, but 24-games into the regular season the ‘W’ is proving as elusive as ever for the Dells Ducks.
Restrictions on teams in other states – primarily Minnesota at this time had caused a much more fluid schedule which seems to change day by day.
The most recent tests included a pair of visits from the Northern Colorado Junior Eagles from the USPHL’s new Mountain Division who made the long trek to the Midwest to take on a series of teams, leading up to the Chicago Showcase Tournament Dec. 17-20.
The Eagles paid a visit to the Ducks Sunday evening and Monday afternoon, winning a pair of decisions 10-0 and 9-0. The Ducks also got an early morning visit from the Steele County Blades, falling 7-2 last Thursday and followed that up with a its third trip to Hudson in a week and an 11-2 loss against the Hudson Havoc.
Bryce Jacobsen and Jerame Kennedy notched the goals against the Blades with Kennedy and captain Luke Marks hitting the twine in Hudson.
While many have found it difficult to get home games in with all the health restrictions, the Ducks have clearly been a favorite stopping spot as their 24-games played is the second-highest total in the league, behind only the Pueblo Bulls with 27. They have played at least six more games and as many as 10 more than the other eight USPHL Midwest-West Division teams.
With their latest defeats, the Ducks blew past the 200-goals against mark while scoring just 36 so far.
Unlike previous games where the team got decent starts, but fell off in the second and third periods, the Ducks were buried in the opening 20 in both contests against the Eagles. However, the addition of players like Jacobsen (’02) and Trent Bachman (’00) from DeForest along with defenseman McCarthy Reed (’03) from Waunakee have injected some adrenaline into a suddenly, more Wisconsin-friendly lineup.
While it seemed the injury bug avoided the team early this season, the past dozen games has seen a path worn out to the infirmary. Veteran defensemen, Cody Long and Kanyn Rogers are both sidelined along with rookie forward Logan Potts and forward Reider Stelzl is among several just back from various nicks and ailments.
Jacobsen has been a great find and on a team with a pop-gun offense, he has been a regular contributor with four points (3g, 1a) through his first eight games with the team. Jayden Tkaczuk, an ’02 from Chanahon, Ill continues to lead the team with 12 points (6g, 6a) while another Illinois native, Adam Brown has eight points (3g, 5a).
Getting away from the game could be a benefit as the crazy schedule has seen games piled on. When the schedule was originally printed, the Ducks got a reprieve from a busy start of primarily home games with a light schedule through November. By the time they ripped that page off the calendar though they had played nine-games through the month and were one of few teams not to get a break at Thanksgiving.
There are two more games scheduled for the Lake Delton Ice Arena – Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings and Tuesday (Dec. 15) at 11 a.m. against the Minnesota Mullets. That will be followed up with four games at the Chicago Showcase and the team will hit the 30-game mark before finally getting its first real break of the season, for Christmas.
The Ducks currently have just six games scheduled for January, beginning Jan. 10, but who knows how much that could change in the days ahead.