The summer project – compiling stats on all four Sauk County varsity hockey teams passed the halfway mark with the completion of Baraboo/Portage.
Technically, while this project will put together the overall records, records vs. every team and player stats since the 2010-11 season, it will be ongoing into the season in November putting together conference records, total goals for and against then some single season records.
Once again, I thank and credit www.wisconsinprephockey.net which has been my source for all the statistical information. The stats on that website go back a bit further than 2010-11, but that seems like a perfect starting point as that was when the current RWD and Baraboo/Portage outfits were formed. I am using that as the starting point for Sauk Prairie and the Badger Lightning as well simply to make everything uniform.
Here are some of the interesting tidbits gathered on the Baraboo/Portage squad:
The team’s overall record in that span is 123-113-11. After six straight seasons, north of .500, topping at 16-5 in 2013-14, the Thunderbirds have been sub .500 for the past five straight, but current head coach, David Clark was close, a season ending tie in the spring of 2020 wrapping up an 11-12-1 campaign.
Clark and his assistants are a positive influence on the players and show a great deal of loyalty to the players, in particular starting goaltenders such as Dane Hinz who played every one of the 1250+ minutes that season in the blue paint for the team in that 19-20 season.
Clark’s overall record with the team is 33-52-1.
The team’s top overall scorer since 2010-11 is Tyler Laux with 40 goals and 124 points in 60 games played. Just four points back with 52 goals and 120 points is Steven Mordini and Dawson Hinz rounds out the top three with 58 goals and 113 points and 2021 graduate Campbell Koseor sits fourth overall with 48 goals and 103 points.
Leading goal scorer is Adam Stanton who notched 61 goals in 64 games, and he also rounds out the top five overall with 101 points. The 84 assists for the Laux is the most by 16 ahead of Mordini.
Penalty minutes leader to date is Mordini with 161, nine more than Joe Zemanovic and Stanton picked up 132 minutes in the box.
In goal, a trio of stoppers combine to lead in different categories. Sean McCutchin collected the most wins with 27, one more than Nate Heckendorf and four more than Dane Hinz who leads minutes played with 3,146.52, more than 400 more minutes and second ranked Heckendorf.
Hinz also leads with the most losses, at 36, the most shots against with 1,986 and saves with 1,760. Nate Godemann played just 436:45 but they were quality minutes as he posted a record of 7-0-0 and a team best 2.57 Goals Against Average. Best Save Percentage among players with at least 100 minutes was Heckendorf at .895 and his eight shutouts is also a team best.
Hopefully in the next few weeks, I will have a few paragraphs on the Sauk Prairie Eagles and Badger Lightning and then double back for conference winners and records and all-time goals for and against.
For most of the past couple years, my own primary focus has been on hockey – whether with the Ducks where I help as part of the management team, or local varsity and youth levels which are the bread and butter for Saukhockey.info.
Most probably don’t know this about me, but I am an Olympics fanatic. Since I was young, I was glued to the television during the Olympics, watching sports that I would normally flip the channel on as if it was for the Stanley Cup.
This summer, I find myself in a position of being able to watch all of the Olympics this summer and by the time it ends in the middle of August, it will practically be hockey season once again. I have already gotten through a warm-up spending time watching US Olympic trials for swimming, track and field and gymnastics in the past few weeks.
I grew up cheering for the Maple Leaf and I still have a place in my heart for Canada but getting a look at the American athletes and the great stories behind so many of them, I am excited to see the ones that earned the right to make the trip next month in Tokyo.
How much of an Olympic nerd have I can become. Well, I can tell you, almost like an expert, the top weightlifters in the world generally come from Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries, if you want to learn from the best cross-country skiers, you should head to Norway, want to learn to be an Olympic archery medalist – make the trip to South Korea. Cycling or Speed Skating – Netherlands…and the list goes on.
The neat thing about the Tokyo games is the schedule is so busy, there are some sports kicking off before the Opening Ceremonies. So if you are antsy for some softball or football (soccer) and you happen to be up at 2 a.m., you are in luck.
That works out great for me as I generally find the Opening Ceremonies mostly boring, way too long and just difficult to sit through.
Softball and football will begin playing their respective pool play games on July 21 and even on the 23rd, archery and rowing will be a great alternative to a bunch of dancers and flag wavers giving you some crazy history of Japan that the announcer must explain.
The craziness of the past year saw the Olympics pushed for a year and because of that, an Olympic fan like myself will get a chance to watch two Olympics in less than 12 months as the Beijing Winter Olympics will begin on February 2.
As a hockey fan, I generally favor the winter games and I don’t consider myself very political, but because of a certain event between Canada and China, I am not in favor of our participation.
Closing in on the halfway mark of compiling statistics on all four Sauk County varsity hockey teams, it seems a good time to tease some of what has come together.
RWD was the first to be complete as far as regular season team and game stats and Baraboo/Portage should be done in the next week. Sauk Prairie Eagles and Badger Lightning will follow in July. Then season by season conference standings and post season stats.
The primary purpose of doing these is to have some interesting background information for pre-game and post-game write ups, but here is some of the interesting things I have come up with.
Please note – I owe a great deal of thanks to wisconsinprephockey.net. Simply put, that is my source for information with almost all game sheets available dating back more than a decade. For RWD and Baraboo/Portage, I have compiled stats going back to 2010-11 when the two teams were formed. Before that, all four teams – Reedsburg, Baraboo, Wisconsin Dells/Mauston and Sauk Prairie ran their own teams and for a few seasons Reedsburg and Baraboo were combined.
In 2010-11, the RWD coalition (with Mauston) was formed as was the Baraboo/Portage squad. Sauk Prairie might go back a little further and I believe the Lightning, a marriage of Baraboo and the Freeze, out of Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells was formed around the same time.
Since the RWD squad was formed, it has compiled a record of 152-88-13. The team has posted only three sub-.500 seasons. In 2014-15, the team compiled its most regular season wins with a 19-3-2 record including 16-straight regular season wins, beginning with a three-run sweep at the annual Monk’s Cheeseburger Classic and lasting to the end of the season, the only non-win a 1-1 draw with Baraboo/Portage.
The Cheavers added three more playoff wins to reach the State Championship quarter-finals.
The longest losing skid for the team was four games, on three different occasions.
The surprising thing so far for both RWD and Baraboo/Portage is the number of ties. It would seem rare for a team to play through eight minutes of overtime without settling a draw, but RWD has just three seasons, including 2020-21 without at least one draw.
To the surprise of nobody, the team’s leading scorer through that stretch is Dylan Brown with 67 goals and 97 assists for 164 points in 60 games, an impressive total for a player who missed most of his junior season.
Derek Pawlak is next on the list and the all time leading goal scorer with 70 goals and 122 points in 71 games. One of the originals, Luke Bjorklund is third highest with 57 goals and 112 points despite playing just two seasons and 46 games under the RWD co-op.
Rounding out the top five is a tie between Jordan Bill (49-58 – 107) and Jordan Brown (47-60 –107). 2021 senior Danny Ely (44-58—102) is so far the only other player to top the 100-point plateau.
Jonathan Zobel leads the team in penalty minutes with 134, just four more than Austin Schyvinck and Zach Clisch was two more minors behind.
In goal, Cooper Oakes already owns most of the high marks, with 34 wins, 1,703 shots, 1,538 saves and nine shutouts, including his first game in goal for the Cheavers, a 5-0 goose egg at Wisconsin Rapids Nov. 20, 2018.
Oakes is still chasing, but will catch early in the season, the total minutes, (24:66.05) currently held by Tyler Arneson. Oakes should nab that mark in the second game of the season.
A couple of players with less than two full games of varsity – Logan Sullivan (.952) and Gary Wiles (.938) hold the best save percentage. Among the regulars, Shane Moilanen posted a .930 Save Percentage with three shutouts in 2010-11 and Dylan Stein was .916.
Among the single season highlights in goal was an awesome six-shutout season for Stein in 2016-17.
That’s an example of the stats saukhockey.info will be able to regurgitate through the regular season. Add to that the team’s record against every team it has played in that 11-year stretch and scorers from each game.
Hopefully it adds a little color to the upcoming season.
By Jim den Hollander Publisher/Editor Saukhockey.info
The Sauk Prairie Eagles and RWD Cheavers both dominated their respective pools, heading for a collision in the championship game at the Middleton Red Line Summer Shootout at Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton.
Both opened the event with a win on Friday (June 18) night then returned Saturday for two more wins and a great bonding experience in a tournament designed to allow for a incoming frehsmen players to get their first taste of varsity hockey. On Sunday, the rivals met in the championship game won handily by the Eagles (9-1) against an RWD team light on seniors.
Eagles 6 Purple Knights 1
For the second day, the Purple Knights saw a close contest get away from them in the final period.
The Eagles fired the first two goals, but the Knights were within one with 2-1 score after both the first and second periods. Four more unanswered goals in the final 15-minute segment put the game away for the Eagles. Senior Erik Peterson fired two goals for the winners, senior Nick Mast in on all but one with a goal and four assists.Junior Landon Clary, senior Brandon Mittelstaedt and sophomore Samson Begalske fired the other Sauk Prairie goals and junior Luke Mast chipped in an assist. The Eagles improved to 2-0 with the win while the Knights fell to 0-2. The Eagles held a 37-14 edge in shots.
Cheavers 8 Cardinals ‘White’ 6
That comfortable margin was almost wiped out by the Cards who exploded for four goals in 5:50 to suddenly trim the cushion to a single goal just 6:01 to play. A great feed from junior Yevgeny Dedun, finished with a tip from sophomore Trey Lariden restored some breathing room with 86 seconds to play and that was as close as the home side got in this one despite getting an extra attacker on for the final minute. Along with Lariden’s goal, the Cheavers got three from junior Caden Brandt and two each from junior John Scott and sophomore Brady Baldwin. Sophomore Izak Elder, junior Logan Demars, junior Nate Stando, junior Carsen Brandt and Dedun had assists in the contest. RWD held a 27-26 edge in shots in this one.
Cheavers 4 Cardinals ‘Red’ 0
Griebe collected a 33-save shutout in this one clinching a spot in the tournament championship game and he was counted on as a first period goal by Logan Demars stood up as the only goal of the contest until the final period. Demars added another in that period as Carsen Brandt, John Scott and he combined to notch three goals in 3:25 the salt this win away. The result was the closest of round robin contests for the locals who outshot the Middleton High School ‘Cardinal’ club 40-33.
Eagles 8 Stars ‘Blue’ 0
The Eagles also racked up a shutout thanks to a 17-save goose egg effort for William Anderson. The Eagles built a 4-0 first period lead and added three more in the middle segment. Nick Mast fired three goals, Hakon Peterson adding two goals and an assist with Luke Mast scoring once and setting up four others. Erik Peterson and Thor Peterson sank the other goals, Erik adding an assist and Samson Begalske also contributed a helper.
Eagles 9 Cheavers 1
It might have been mid-June, but the pace for most of this contest looking like a mid-February contest. The Eagles, opened a 2-0. Both teams showed off some speed and physical play, typical of a rivalry contest, but in the middle period, the Eagles took over, turning a 2-0 lead into a 6-0 cushion before the second period break. The Cheavers showed flashes but the toughest part for the RWD squad was Sauk scored a couple of its goals on counterstrikes right after some of the Cheavers’ best chances.
Luke Mast led the Eagles with two goals and four assists, Micah Hanson and Hakon Peterson both added two goals while Nick Mast fired one goal and set up two others. Brody Wolfe and Gunnar Nachreiner collected the other Eagles’ goals, Erik Peterson, Steven Romaker and goaltender Brooks McInerney, who split the work in goal with Kaden Stracke, had single assists. Caden Brandt fired the lone Cheavers’ goal unassisted, Alex Griebe and Cooper Oakes kept busy between the pipes.
Red Line Club Tradition
While Middleton High School Cardinals hosted the event and put three teams into the eight-team competition, thanks goes out to the organization’s ‘Red Line Club’ which has run the event for more than 15 summers. The primary purpose of the tournament is to give freshmen an early shot at creating some chemistry with their new teammates. The the RWD squad, that bonding included both players and parents with a Tailgate event in the parking lot helped kill the time between games on Saturday.
The regular season is almost six months away, but its safe to say both the Sauk Prairie Eagles and RWD Cheavers will have the bar set high when the new Badger West Division kicks off its 2021-22 season.
Both teams took advantage of a mid-summer opportunity to hit the ice, taking part in the 10th Annual Red Line Summer Shootout at Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton.
The eight-taem event is a low key bonding opportunity hosted by the Middleton Cardinals. The Cheavers and Eagles were two of three single-entry teams taking part, the other being the Beloit Memorial Purple Knights. Meanwhile, the host Cardinals have three teams taking part and the other two represent the Brookfield Stars.
The tournament opener Friday (June 18) afternoon featured the Eagles against the Middleton High School ‘Cardinal’ team with the Eagles rolling to a 9-3 win in their Cardinal Division match. The other Cardinal Division contest saw Brookfield ‘Blue’ getting the Purple Knights 6-2.
The Cheavers rounded out the opening day of action with an 8-3 win against Brookfield ‘White’, following an earlier game that saw MHS ‘Red’ capturing a 5-3 win against MHS ‘White’.
Eagles 9 MHS ‘Cardinal’ 3
Eagles fired a pair of unanswered first period goals and both team notched a pair in the middle frame. After the second period flood, the Eagles returned with some fire, posting a 5-1 margin through the final 15-minutes.
Seniors Hakon Peterson and Nick Mast both scored twice, Peterson adding three assists to lead the Eagles. Sophomore Karsyn Banta added a goal and assist with other goals fired by sophomore Samson Begalske, junior Luke Mast, senior Micah Hanson and sophomore Steven Romaker.
Senior Brody Wolfe, sophomore Thor Peterson and freshman Connor Grant collected an assist each. Goaltending chores were shared by juniors Kaden Stracke and Brooks McInenerny who combined to stop 15 of 18 Middleton shots.
Sophomore Carter Walby scored twice for Middleton, Alex Moreau, also a sophomore, fired the other. Senior Connor Faucher and freshman Heuer Stutz shared the work in goal for Middleton, handling 30 of 39 Eagles’ chances.
Cheavers 8 Brookfield ‘White’ 3
RWD all but settled this game in the opening four minutes, jumping into a 3-0 lead and up 4-0 by the end of the first period. Cheavers added two more before the Stars finally hit the board in the second half of the middle period.
Sophomore Brady Baldwin paced the Cheavers with a three-goal game and sophomore defenseman Izak Elder added two goals and an assist. Juniors John Scott and Yevgeny Dedun and freshman Bryan Mammos fired the other RWD goals.
Junior Caden Brandt and sophomore Trey Lariden both collected a pair of assists with singles for junior defender Nate Stando and freshman Kaden Uminski.
Freshman goaltender Alexander Griebe made a solid debut with 27 saves and the win while RWD fired 36 shots the other way.
The Tournament continues on Saturday with the Eagles on the ice early, a 7:50 a.m. start against Beloit and a 4:30 p.m. match against Brookfield ‘Blue.’
The Cheavers will take on MHS ‘White’ in a 9:30 a.m. contest and MHS ‘Red’ at 2:50 p.m.
Pool results will decide opponents for four final games on Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m. and wrapping up with the final at 11:20 a.m.
Off season hockey rolls on, giving RWD junior John Scott a chance to not only prepare for an upcoming varsity tournament while helping the Wisconsin Blue Devils 16U squad to a solid third place showing at the 2021 Summer Showdown Showcase Tournament.
The tournament brought the Blue Devils squad based out of Tomah, to a familiar venue, the National Sports Center Super Rinks in Blaine, Minn.
Scott collected two goals and two assists over the weekend, getting the team to within a goal of the championship game and ultimately finishing in third spot.
Scott, a forward for the RWD Cheavers was attending his third and final summer tournament with the Blue Devils. Next weekend he will join his RWD teammates at a High School varsity off season event hosted by the Middleton Cardinals at Capitol Ice in Middleton.
The eight 16U teams at the Summer Showdown played in two four-team pools, beginning Friday. Limited ice time in the off-season months means the Blue Devils look to rediscover on ice chemistry each time out and on this weekend, the team was better with each game, beginning with a so/so effort against the Midwest Knights hockey club, playing to a 2-2 draw on Friday (June 11) evening.
The Blue Devils played a tight defensive game with the Magic Selects, an affiliate of the Tier 2 junior Minnesota Magicians out of Richfield, Minn. In the end, the Selects held on for a 1-0 win, but the Blue Devils rallied back Saturday night with a lopsided 6-1 win against the Steel Shots which was good enough to rank second in pool play and advance to the Championship semifinals.
Seeded fourth in the playoff round, the Blue Devils came up against the top seeded Minnesota Freeze, pushing that team to the final buzzer, but ultimately falling 3-2.
The loss pushed the Blue Devils to a Consolation (third place) final against the same Magic Selects it fell to the previous day, but this time it was the Devils racking up seven goals and a 7-0 shutout win.
Meanwhile the Freeze captured the Championship trophy, avenging a Friday night loss to the Global Prospects Academy with a 6-2 win, the team’s fourth straight victory.
Jayden Tkaczuk (#86) and Adam Brown — Photo Courtesy Gary Wiles
Head Coach Shaun Falzone successfully checked another box on his list of goals since returning as Owner/GM/Coach of the Dells Ducks with four players invited to attend the main training camp for the NCDC’s Boston Advantage.
Since he stepped in as a partner for the Dells Ducks in the spring of 2020, Falzone listed several ambitions including restoring a solid relationship with the local hockey community and giving his players a legit shot at moving on to the next level of junior play.
The arrangement with the Advantage is nice as teams are in a similar position in terms of their USPHL identity. The Ads are entering just their sophomore season with teams at the NCDC, Premier and Elite levels while the Ducks are entering an 11th season, but just a second since a reboot under the guidance of Falzone.
Liam Hogan — Photo Credit Gary Wiles
“Our goal for the Ducks is to move players on,” said Falzone.
“With our relationship with Boston Advantage, we are getting the opportunity to give our Ducks, USPHL Premier players, an opportunity to prove they belong in the NCDC, tier 2 hockey. We have helped these players improve over the season and now it is in their hands.”
Invitations have been presented to Jayden Tkaczuk (‘02/Channahon, Ill.), the team’s scorer in 2020-21 with 11 goals and 19 points; Adam Brown (‘02/Chicago, Ill.), one of the few returners this past season who showed his ability to play both defense and forward; Liam Hogan (‘02/West Greenwich, R.I.) who contributed a dozen points and goaltender Anthony Falzone (‘03/Prosper, Texas) who made 18 appearances in the blue paint for the Ducks.
“Tkaczuk, he is a player who is 5’5″ but he plays like he is 6’5″,” said Coach Falzone. “He has no fear and loves to aggravate the other team. He has amazing hands and good speed. He is a recent re-signing for us.”
Falzone got a chance to look at his player again in action at the Chicago Combine last month.
“He played the last day at the combine because the yellow team was short players so (Midwest Commissioner John) Schwarz let me throw him in. He had four goals and two assists, I believe, in two games. Had all the scouts talking to him.”
Despite his young age, Brown stepped up as an on and off ice leader for a young Ducks team and Falzone said he deserves a shot at a higher-level team.
(Brown is a) “Very strong player for my organization, playing both defense and offense. He played a big part in keeping our goals down and ended up being a leader on the team. He has played juniors for three seasons, so he has experience and can play the game and he is blessed with quick hands and good speed, with a nice strong shot.”
Hogan and Falzone were both junior rookies as well. Both showed an ability to shake off the rough nights and move on, learning along the way.
“Hogan is a fast player, who is in great condition,” said Coach Falzone. “He has good hands and is smart with the puck. He was an Assistant Captain for us as a Rookie. He is a pure leader and doesn’t know the word quit. I am really hoping he returns if he doesn’t make a Tier 2 team.”
A rival coach from the Midwest-West made a call to the Advantage to reccommend the young goalie. This Coach said to Coach Falzone, ‘I hope you do not mind, I had some talks with some NCDC teams on behalf of your son. I know he is your kid and you will help him move up, but I really feel that Anthony needs to make the move to tier 2 so I figured you wouldn’t mind me talking to them about him.’
“He got thrown into the top spot last season and he was not supposed to be in that position,” said Coach Falzone “He earned the respect from the team, and they played better in front of him. He is an aggressive goalie. Players hate to stand in his crease. He is good at getting the respect from players and goalies from other teams.”
These four will be part of the team’s tryout June 28 at the Pilgrim Ice Arena in Hingham, Mass.
Before embarking on a senior season and adding to an already history-making career as the primary goaltender for the RWD varsity hockey team, Cooper Oakes is getting a look at his hockey future.
Oakes, an ’03 from Reedsburg, attended a North American Hockey League (NAHL) combine in Columbus, Ohio in April and in late May he backstopped a Janesville Jets sponsored 18U team to a pair of wins on a weekend that saw the team wrap up at 3-1 at an event at the National Sports Center Super Rinks in Blaine, Minn.
The team played four times as one of several teams at the NAHL event played while the mother Janesville Jets were playing in their Division semifinal against the Kenai River Brown Bears. The Alaska-based Brown Bears have been using the Minnesota rink as a home barn.
After starting out with a 4-3 (so) win against the Austin Bruins, the Jets dropped a 5-2 decision against the Northeast Generals, then bounced back with a 3-1 win against the Lone Star Brahmas and finally, a 2-0 edge against the Kenai River Brown Bears.
Janesville Jets 4 Austin Bruins 3 (SO)
In the opening game against the Austin Bruins 18U squad, Oakes took the reins from Noah McCrary (‘04/Sun Prairie) in the middle period and helped the team to a 4-3 win in shootout. Oakes Bkicked out all three shots he faced in the shootout.
Regulation goals for the Jets came from Brady Moore (‘04/Eau Claire Memorial); Tyler Steuck (‘04/Janesville) and Eric Horein (‘04/Madison Capitols). The lone goal of the shootout came in the third round from Ben Carlson (‘03/Chippewa Falls).
Janesville Jets 2 Northeast Generals 5
Oakes and McCrary flipped the roles in the second game, Oakes starting the contest and handing off to Mc Cray with the Jets trailing in the second.
The pair combined for 29 saves in the contest with Jets’ goals scored by Pavel Rettig (Waunakee) and Horein.
Generals carried a 2-0 lead out of the first period and extend its lead to 4-1 in the middle frame, both teams adding one in the third.
Janesville Jets 3 Lone Star Brahmas 1
Against the Brahmas, the Jets went with McCrary between the pipes and he stopped 22 of 23 to nail down the win.
Jets trailed 1-0 after a period and charged back for the win with three unanswered in the final frame.
Carter Plante (‘04/Eau Claire) tied the score early with Horein notching the game winner and adding a clincher into an empty Brahmas’ goal with 34 seconds to play.
Janesville Jets 2 Kenai River Brown Bears 0
Oakes got the call for the finale and turned in a perfect effort, blocking all Brown Bears’ attempts in a shutout win.
The game’s first goal came in the sixth minute of the third period from Joe Roemer (‘04/Oregon HS) and Gavin Hruby (‘04/Waunakee) followed up with an insurance tally in the final minute.
A pair of local talented hockey players – Incoming RWD junior Caden Brandt and Carson Zick who will be a sophomore for Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds in 2021-22 took part in the high caliber NAHL Prospects Challenge tournament this past weekend, suiting up for the 15U Janesville Jets.
The event brought together a dozen teams, all under the umbrellas of North American Hockey League teams.
The team put together a 2-1 record in round robin matches and advanced through the Playoff quarterfinals before falling in the semis to the eventual tournament champs.
All games were played at the National Sports Center Super Rinks in Blaine, Minn., Friday May 29 – Sun day May 31.
Janesville Jets 3 Austin Bruins 4
The Jets trailed 3-0 early in the second period but rallied for three goals in the frame to knot the score at 3-3 heading to the final session.
Unfortunately, the only goal in the final period put the Bruins in front again with 8:20 to play in the contest.
David Emerich (‘06/Waunakee) scored twice for the Jets, sandwiching a goal for Grant Halmstad (‘05/Wausau).
Janesville Jets 3 Chippewa Steel 0
A goal in each period and a shutout effort in goal for Grenier Mason (‘05/Milwaukee) evened the Jets’ record.
Halmstad, Joseph Gerbitz (‘05/Green Bay) and David Dina (‘05/Verona) scored the Jets goals in this one, wrapping up play Friday.
Janesville Jets 2 Odessa Jackalopes 1 (so)
This defensive struggle didn’t see a goal until the Texas-based Jackalopes found the mesh early in the second period.
Brandt (‘05/LaValle) set up Will Rotar (‘05/Stoughton) about four minutes later to pull the Jets even and that’s the way it stayed through regulation and overtime.
In the shootout Rotar and Emerich both scored to lift the Jets to a win clinching a spot in the playoff quarter-finals.
Janesville Jets 6 Springfield Jr. Blues 1
The Jets’ collected its most decisive win later Saturday turning a 1-0 first period lead into a 4-1 middle stanza cushion and adding two more unanswered down the stretch.
Brandt led the charge scoring twice for the Jets and Zick (‘05/Baraboo) added a third period assist to help the cause. Other Jets’ goals came from Gerbitz, Emerich, Reid Post (Chippewa Falls) and Lars Brotzman (‘05/Verona).
Janesville Jets 1 New Mexico Ice Wolves 4
Just four teams returned Sunday for tournament semi-finals including three from the Jets’ round robin Division.
While the Jets squared off with the Ice Wolves, Chippewa Falls and the Jackalopes squared off in the other semi.
Brandt fire his team’s only goal, tying the game at 1-1 late in the second period, but the Ice Wolves recaptured the lead 51 seconds later with the game winning tally.
The Ice Wolves went on to claim the tournament championship with a 6-1 win against the Chippewa Steel.
Chris Walby, Head Coach of the Minnesota Mullets is originally from the Sauk Prairie/Lodi area and part of one of the original hockey families.
Now 46, Walby played his junior hockey with the Wisconsin Capitols in the USHL and played a few seasons of junior in British Columbia before ultimately turning his focus onto the other side of the bench.
He coached the Middleton Cardinals to a host of conference titles and some state championship tournament berths before stepping behind the bench of the Minnesota Iron Rangers of the Superior International Junior Hockey League, a team he coached for three seasons and ultimately purchased.
He purchased the Forest Lake (formerly Edina) Lakers in 2016 and renamed the team the Minnesota Mullets the following season. Along with the ownership responsibilities, Walby has been the team’s general manager and coach for the past six seasons as well.
Walby agreed to take part in an email question-answer type interview with Saukhockey.info earlier this week.
Saukhockey.info: I moved here in 2000 and despite the popularity of the Badgers and such, I felt like hockey in Wisconsin was at least a generation behind the hockey states like Minnesota, just in terms of general interest at that time. What are your memories of being a youngster, involved in hockey in Wisconsin?
Chris Walby: I grew up on a horse farm set on 32 acres in between Sauk City and Lodi, long before Sauk City and Prairie du Sac built their rink. We were forced to play all our youth hockey in Middleton and for the Madison West Flyers. I have three brothers who also played, so my parents were busy carting us around to the rink.
My Gramma and Grandpa were the reason we got involved in hockey. They had Badger Hockey season tickets and took my brothers and I to our first hockey game. We got hooked quick. We loved the Badgers. When we played pick-up games on our pond or in our garage, we’d argue about who got to pretend to be Mark Johnson, John Newberry, Bruce Driver, Chris Chelios, and we always made our youngest brother play as Marc Behrend in net. I’ve got great memories from those days in the Coliseum.
SH: You started coaching the Cardinals a few years after I arrived here it appears. I remember varsity hockey for WDHS at that time was pretty much a club team. Middleton is a great sports town. Was the hockey program always stronger or was it tough getting players from the wrestling and/or basketball teams?
CW: I played for the Cardinals and graduated from Middleton High School in ‘94. I went on to play junior hockey and then settled in Milwaukee for a few years. When I moved back to Middleton, I was invited to join the staff at Middleton by the Libert brothers who were still the Co-Head Coaches. I was their first captain as they were my coaches during my senior year and their first year at the helm.
My Middleton high school teams were good when I played, but the program had a rough stretch for a few years just before I got there. The Liberts added me and another alumnus in Derek Ward and we quickly turned it around.
We ended up going to “State” the first year myself, Derek Ward, Steve, and Tony Libert combined as a staff. We had a great run together. In nine seasons we made three state tournament appearances and won several Big 8 Titles together.
I credit all three of those coaches as the biggest influences in my coaching career. My final season at Middleton finished with a 5 – 1 loss in the “State” finals against Pete Susens and tough Wausau West team. It took Pete 30 years to win that title and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t have 30 years to chase this’ and I moved on.
What I miss most about coaching high school hockey are the big games and big game environments. The crowds at Cardinal games were awesome. We built quite the program so the students came out in full force.
The Sectional Semi Final and Final games were amazing. We played with full capacity crowds at Cap Ice, Madison Ice Arena and Verona several times. Obviously, I remember the moments during and following the big wins, but some of my fondest memories were lessons taught during tough losses. For example, we went to six overtimes in the 2006 “State” tournament and lost, but it may be one of my favorite hockey memories of all time.
We had a great blend of characters on that team, and it was amazing how they gave everything they had in that game for each other. It was an amazing experience to watch. Sometimes I find myself being more of a cheerleader than a coach and that was one of those times. Time after time, each kid came back to the bench with a look in their eye that said, “I’m doing my best, Coach!” I’ll never forget that game and my time at Middleton.
SH: Your brother Steffon had a great playing (including 289 points in seven seasons in the AHL) and now coaching career (including an SPHL crown won in the spring of 2011 with the Mississippi Surge with regular goaltender Bill Zaniboni). Was he a big influence on you in the sport?
CW: Also, at the top of the list of my biggest influences as a coach and player, is my big brother Steffon.
As a player, I had huge skates to fill because he was awesome. Growing up, I was his biggest fan. If there was a big goal, he’d score it. I’m not kidding either. All throughout his career, when the game was on the line, nine times out of 10 my brother would get the game winner.
I learned a lot just by watching him both as a player and as a coach. As a coach, his demeanor is calm and collected. Regardless of the score. He’s always positive when correcting a mistake or encouraging his guys on during a game. I’m the same, but I’m a lot rowdier on the bench at times than he is.
He’s passed a lot of knowledge on to me about defensive zone coverage, offensive zone attacks, effective ways to improve special teams and how to run game day operations. He’s coached at basically every level now, so I’ve still got a lot more to learn from him.
SH: How did you first connect with the Iron Rangers? Was the move to juniors something you had been thinking about for a while? Can you talk a bit about life in the SIJHL? I have never lived in that part of Ontario but think those long bus rides in the dead of winter must be the longest and perhaps most excruciating in junior. Also, if you thought the rivalry between Middleton and Verona was strong, it must have been so fun as an American coach in Northwestern Ontario?
CW: During the summer of 2012, I was sitting at a Brewer game when I received a text from Sean Storie, a coaching buddy from Superior, Wisconsin. It said, “I think I just got you a Junior A coaching job if you want it.” Ever since my own junior career, I have always said that someday I’m going to run my own junior program.
So, I quickly replied, “Where?” Sean responded, “Iron Range.” I had no clue where that even was.
The owner of the Iron Range Ironheads of the Superior International Junior Hockey League called me the next day and offered me the job over the phone. I told him I had no clue what the Iron Range was and had never heard of his team before. He said they were a second-year team, they weren’t going to renew the current head coach’s contract and they were looking for a new coach to take over and relocate the team 50 miles from Chisolm, Minnesota to Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota.
I told him I’d jump into my car first thing in the morning and meet him in Hoyt Lakes. It’s about a nine-hour drive from Middleton to Hoyt Lakes and I was totally blown away by how beautiful the Iron Range was in the middle of June.
I’ll never forget my first Impression of Hoyt Lakes. You take HWY 4 north out of Duluth for an hour and twenty minutes. All you see during that stretch of highway are beautiful lakes, tall pine tree forests and what seemed like a thousand deer.
There is one major road that runs through town, and it takes less than two minutes to get from one end to the other. If you were to stay on that same road, all you see for an hour is the Superior International Forest State Park before you stumble onto Silver Bay, Minnesota, and HWY 61. It’s incredible. It’s also the only way to Thunder Bay so I ended up getting familiar with the view and have a deep appreciation for the area which is also called the Sawtooth Mountain Range.
The first thing you see as you enter Hoyt Lakes is a welcome sign. The second thing you see is the Hoyt Lakes Ice Arena. I loved that part. It instantly made me feel like the rink was the town’s major focal point. Waiting out in front of the rink was its manager, Wayde West and hockey enthusiast, Francine Bonach. They gave me a tour of the rink, our locker room, the gymnasium and what ultimately sold me on the place, a full-size restaurant quality kitchen they used for weddings, banquets, etc. Wayde and Francine told me all of it was ours to use and for whatever I wanted to use it for. The move just felt right. I had everything I needed to build a team and to build NCAA hockey players.
Playing in the SIJHL was tough. It’s a Canadian league and with the exception of two years, we were the only American team in the league. The league was made up of teams in the Northwest Ontario towns of Thunder Bay, Fort Frances, Dryden, Ear Falls and then us, the upstart Minnesota Iron Rangers.
Hoyt Lakes is two hours from the Canadian border and once we would cross the border it felt as if it was us against them. The biggest example of this was a heartbreaking blown offsides call that led to our demise in Game 7 of the SIJHL Championship.
Regardless, the community and I ended up buying the team from the original owner, we built a winning franchise, filled our home arena, and brought something special to a community that needed us just as much as we needed them. It changed all our lives.
In the end, I brought dozens of Wisconsinites with me to the “Range” and ended up placing over 30 players into the NCAA. It was a special and unforgettable time for all of us.
SH: When the Ducks first joined the Minnesota League, I had never heard of Edina. Of course, now I realize Edina and Maple Grove might be two of the greatest hockey towns in the USA. The Lakers/Mullets are a team with a solid history in the Twin Cities area. Is that part of what made you interested in the team?
CW: I’m forever a Wisconsin guy, but I have absolutely fallen in love with the hockey culture in Minnesota and specifically in the Twin Cities. We have a unique set up here for junior hockey. We play out of Augsburg University Ice Arena and are in the heart of Minneapolis. We are less than a mile from where the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Gophers play and several Minneapolis parks and landmarks.
We have a state-of-the-art gym, rink and an incredible coaching and game day staff. Logistically, we have five NCAA schools here in town and over a dozen more within three hours from here. These are the things I’ve always wanted in building a program. We have everything a player needs to develop on and off the ice and into the NCAA.
SH: Junior hockey teams — successful ones at least, always have a ‘family’ feel. Your bond with the players you coached is obvious and I think you might have more returners each season than most teams as a result. What do you specifically look for in players wanting to play for the Mullets?
CW: I look for players with high quality character. Good kids mostly from good families.
I think team chemistry is the most important factor in building a successful team and program. I try to fill the locker room each year with those types. It always leads to a tight locker room and players build lifelong bonds and relationships with each other. I feel that type of relationship between players make them compete so much harder and they do it for each other.
Those type of kids also make my job feel extra rewarding. They appreciate what we do here and what they’re given.
I truly care for our players and want them to reach their full potential. Nothing makes me smile more than when they have success and achieve their goals. I think they know that. The best phone call in the world is the call I get when a player has accepted an offer to play college hockey.
We get these players at a time where they can set the table for the rest of their lives and our guys are doing great. What we try to teach here goes beyond hockey. We want good players to turn into good husbands, fathers, and members in their communities. The longer I coach, the more I see that come to fruition.
SH: You, like Coach Falzone, seem to relish a chance to wear a lot of hats. You don’t appear to delegate much, preferring to look after most of the day-to-day stuff yourself. Does the paperwork and stuff that goes with being an owner/gm, take any time away from being a coach or have you found a good way to make it work?
CW: I’ve found a way to successfully make it work. True, I do wear a lot of hats and I’m involved in every aspect of running a junior hockey team, but I’ve also surrounded myself with several great people in part time roles that are key players in day-to-day operations.
I had my first full time assistant coach this past season and it was awesome. Max Seiter from Steven’s Point. He’s a former player of mine from the Range and went on to study Physical Therapy at NCAA Finlandia in the U.P.
Coach Max was great. Knocked it out of the park in his first year of coaching. He made the biggest impact in the gym. He knows his stuff and the guys could see it and bought in from the start.
Marty Sertich joined our staff this past season. Marty had an incredible career in the NHL and was a Hobey Baker winner at Colorado College. He’s from here and helps with the University St. Thomas women’s program as well.
Coach Marty would come in one or two times a week to lead our skill practices. He’s still in incredible shape and would run the kids through edge work drills and a series of drills focused on passing, shooting, and getting “touches” in each week. The boys loved him.
Coach Tom Strelow is also still involved. He’s been a great mentor for our players and for me as a coach. Tom also serves as an assistant for Minnesota high school state champion Mahtomedi High School and is a billet father each year for several of our boys.
I’m also blessed with a great game day staff (HP, Nicki, Kels, Zoa, Kate, Roy, and Dan) that run our home games and travel with us for several road games. They’ve filled in several times when road teams were short a trainer or a broadcast guy and our equipment manager isn’t shy about sharpening an opposing team’s skate.
The toughest part about running a team is putting the team together. Several owner, coaches, and GM’s struggle at it. I don’t have the budget to run all over the country to scout and who wants to be away from their family that often?”
I’m lucky to have an amazing network of friends in hockey. I’m very thankful and grateful for them. A majority of my roster each season is built on referrals from people in hockey that I’ve met along the way and know we can provide a great place to play from some kind of an experience we’ve shared over the years.
I’ve always believed that if you treat someone well, they’ll always stick with you. I can say that my vets typically feel that way and if they don’t, that’s ok. Where can we move you to where you’re happy?
In the end, each locker room is the same each year. We’ve all had a blast and it’s a season they will never forget.
SH: How often do you get back to this area? Is it still special for you walking into Cap Ice or any of the other rinks in this area?
CW: I get back often. I had a special experience this past year during Covid and when our rinks shutdown in Minnesota. I let the boys go home for a week at Thanksgiving and when they came back, we moved operations and we all met at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC).
It was awesome and kind of a dream come true for me. It was a feeling of my life in hockey kind of coming full circle. I loved having the team on my real home turf. I introduced several to Culver’s, Piggly Wiggly, Devils Lake and the Dells.
The staff at Sauk’s arena was awesome to us and the venue worked perfect for our needs. Dave Jolicoeur has a great crew there and was great to work with.
We skated out of Sauk City’s rink for two weeks. We played four games and practiced there before moving on to our Chicago Showcase just before Christmas.
It was a special trip. One that I will never forget. The boys thought we were going to be forced to shut down for weeks and we didn’t. We made it through. They sincerely appreciated it and we grew together as a team at such a crucial time.