End of an era for varsity teams

A look back at the Badger North Conference 2010-20

By Jim den Hollander



When the RWD Cheavers, Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds and Sauk Prairie Eagles face off this fall, it will not just be a return from a year’s absence of play in the Badger North Conference, it will be in an entirely new version of the Badger Conferences.

Gone are the Badger North and Badger South Conferences. New alignment has changed them to the Badger West and Badger East.

The Sauk County teams will all be in the Badger West starting this season, but it will have a fresh look. Longtime Conference rival and front runner, Waunakee Warriors along with the DeForest Norskies and Beaver Dam Golden Beavers will no longer be a part of the same conference, replaced by the Edgewood Crusaders, Oregon Panthers and Monroe Cheesemakers. The other three will be a part of the Badger East.

Looking back, since the 2010-11 campaign, with the current version of Cheavers and Thunderbirds, all three local teams have at least one conference title while the team to beat almost every season was the Warriors.

For the first two seasons, those five teams (Cheavers, Thunderbirds, Eagles, Warriors and Norskies) made up the Badger North, the Norskies taking a sabbatical in 2012-13 reducing it to a four-team league.

The Norskies returned in 2013-14 and the following season, the league grew to a six-team group with the addition of the McFarland Spartans. They remained in the league for three seasons, replaced in 2017-18 by the Golden Beavers making up the league membership through 2019-20. Due to the restrictions of this past season, the Badger North and South Conferences were both off the books.

Following is a look at all the teams from the Badger North Conference from 2010-2020

Waunakee Warriors

Overall Conference Record – (2010-20) 72-16-2

Conference Titles – 2011-12; 2013-14 (shared); 2015-16; 2016-17; 2019-20

The Warriors have been in the hunt for the conference crown every season, finishing as either champion or runner up in each season.

In 2011-12. The Warriors were led on the score sheet by Derek Straus who led the conference in scoring with 64 points, one point ahead of teammate Jason Ford

In 2011-12, the Warriors won the conference title, led by Jason Ford’s 88 points, Keegan Ford finishing third overall with 63. Three different goaltenders: Nick Severson, Nick Fellows and Mitch Horras teamed up to lead the team to a stingy 18 goals against in conference play.

In 2012-13, The team was 3-3 in conference, led by Jacob Thousand who collected 37 points with three others (Jacob Hudecek, Blake Ripley and Blake Anderson) over the 30-point plateau.

Thousand nearly doubled his points total with 69 in 2013-14 and that was second best on the team behind the conference leading Chevy Ford who collected 76.

Another boost to 86 points saw Thousand as the team and conference leader the following season just one in front of teammate Blake Ripley. The same pair led the way in 2015-16 as well, Thousand with 94 points and Ripley right behind with 87.

In 2017-18, the Warriors finished as conference runners up and the team was led by Zane Marshman’s 40 points.

Defense was key in 2017-18 and the Warriors notched just 35 goals in conference play, but still finished second overall, led by Mason Ihrke who collected 28 points. He also led the team in 2018-19 with 35 points.

In 2019-20 Isaac Nett stepped up as the team’s scoring leader with 51 points.

RWD Cheavers

Overall Conference Record – (2010-20) 57-28-5

Conference Titles – 2010-11; 2014-15; 2017-18; 2018-19

The Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells/Mauston co-operative effort could not have started better as the team raced to a conference title, dropping just one of eight games, and outscoring the conference rivals 50-21 in 2010-11.

Ryan Theiler and Luke Bjorklund shared the team lead in scoring and were third best in the conference with 54 points each and Shane Moilanen turned in some solid work in goal with a 2.53 Goals Against Average and a Save Percentage of .930.

Bjorklund returned for the 2011-12 season and improved to 58 points, good enough for fourth best in the conference on a young Cheavers team rebuilding from a heavy graduation class the previous season.

In 2012-13, the RWD Cheavers recorded its only last place finish winning two of six in the tightly bunched four-team Badger North Conference. Cortland Maxfield powered the offense with 43 points and tied for second in the league in overall scoring.

The Cheavers worked its way to third place overall in 2013-14, led in scoring by junior Jordan Brown who picked up 39 points, fourth best in the conference. He returned the following season and shared the team scoring lead with Jordan Bill – both at 58 points and led the to its second conference title in a season that saw the team turning it around from sub .500 before its own Christmas tournament to undefeated the rest of the way, carrying all the way to the state quarterfinals.

The following season, the Cheavers slipped a bit, to third in conference, paced in scoring by sophomore Dylan Brown who put up 49 points. Senior goaltender Mike Olson handled the bulk of the work, putting up a .901 Save Percentage.

The following season, the Cheavers finished as runners up in league standings, but Chris Jones became the team’s first conference scoring leader, racking up several multi-goal games on his way to a 34-goal, 47-point season, Dylan Brown (33 points) and Derek Pawlak (31 points) rounding out the top five.

The Cheavers, led by senior Dylan Brown climbed to the top of the conference for its first of two straight seasons in 2017-18. Brown was the runaway conference points leader and among the state leaders with an 85-point campaign, Jacob Ely finishing third with 46 points.

Pawlak was third in conference scoring and tops on the Cheavers with 50-points in 2018-19, its fourth and final conference title season. Thomas Pfaff finished with 42 points, good enough for fifth overall.

In 2019-2020, RWD fell to fourth place with a 4-6 conference record and Danny Ely was the team’s top scorer with 39 points.

Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds

Overall Conference Record – (2010-20) 46-39-6

Conference Titles – 2013-14

The first season of the Baraboo/Portage co-op saw the Thunderbirds finishing at 3-4-1 and led on the score sheet by Jeremy Ebert who collected 24 goals and 34 points.

The following season saw the team at 4-4 in the conference standings powered by Adam Laux who contributed 38 points, two more than teammate Tyler Laux.

In 2012-13, the T-Birds compiled a 3-3 record in conference play and Tyler Laux was fourth in conference scoring with 41 points, Adam Stanton finishing sixth with 34 points.

In 2013-14, the Thunderbirds boosted its conference record to 7-1 and shared the conference title with the Warriors. Tyler Laux boosted his points total to 47 points and was third in conference scoring, Stanton rounding out the top five with 38 points.

A solid 7-2-1 record the following season saw the T-Birds finishing third, just two points out of top spot. Douglas MacDonald paced the team in scoring with 39 points and Steven Mordini was close behind with 33.

In 2015-16, the Thunderbirds finished at 7-2-2 and second in the division with Mordini leading the team with a 63-point season, third best in conference. Dawson Hinz racked up 50 points.

Thunderbirds fell off a bit in 2016-17 season, under .500 at 4-5-1 and fourth in the six-team division. Nick MacDonald was the team’s top scorer with 23 points.

The team was fourth again in 2017-18 led in scoring by Mike Wech with 31 points and Jack MacDonald right behind with 28.

Thunderbirds slipped a bit to 4-6 in 2018-19. Campbell Koseor led the team in scoring with six goals and 16 points. Koseor also led the charge in 2019-20 with 33 points, four in front of teammate Cameron Logan.

Sauk Prairie Eagles

Overall Conference Record – (2010-20) 31-54-5

Conference Titles – 2012-13

The Eagles have had two solid spikes with a bit of a down stretch in between through the last decade. The community has an amazing group of teams from varsity through youth and would have turned its overall record to over .500 in the next few seasons. Now its goal will be to win some Badger West titles.

In 2010-11, the Eagles were led by then first-year Luke McElhenie who picked up 36 points and helped the team to a 2-5-1 conference record. Travis Jacobson was close behind with 31 points and Dan Brennan collected 28.

The following season, the Eagles improved all the way to second place in the conference with a record of 5-2-1 and McElhenie improved his scoring total to 56 points, fifth best in the league with Jacobson seventh with 46 points.

The rise to the top was completed in 2012-13 with a 4-2 record giving the Eagles the outright conference crown and McElhenie led the conference with 68 points, well in front of teammate Jacob Free who was second best with 43 points.

In 2013-14 the Eagles collected just a single win in conference, tying for fourth in the league. Michael Wenzel was the team’s top scorer with 14 points. The Eagles won just once the following season as well, falling to sixth place, led in scoring by Cam Gesicki who scored 13 goals and collected 17 points.

The fall was finalized in 2015-16 as the Eagles dropped to 0-10, Gesicki again pacing the offense with a 14-point campaign.

The Eagles started the climb back up the standings in 2016-17 season with a 2-7-1 record, finishing on top of McFarland in the standings and led by a pair of first-year students, Riley Jelinek and Camden Desroches with 21 points apiece. That pair was just getting started.

The following season, Jelinek added another 45 points to his total while Desroches added 38 and the Eagles moved to third place with a 5-4-1 record.

Jelinek didn’t just lead the league, but the state in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. He notched 79 points with Desroches second in conference with 60 in their junior seasons as the Eagles finished just under .500 at 4-5-1. A tough loss in the final conference match of the season against the Warriors denied the Eagles another shared title but Jelinek once again led the state with 85 points.

The team held down the top three spots as sophomore Nick Mast finished with 63 points, one ahead of Desroches.

DeForest Norskies

Overall Conference Record – (2010-20) 13-70-1

Conference Titles – None

Life in the Badger North hasn’t been easy for the Norskies who have finished at the bottom of the tough conference six times and last won a game in the 2016-17 season. Individual bright spots include:

Jake Nordenstrom fifth in league scoring in 2010-11 with 49 points, four ahead of teammate Austin Frank; Matthew Bulovosky racked up 72 points, second best in the conference in 2011-12.

In 2013-14 Weston Knutson led the team in scoring with 27 points and in 2014-15 Logan Wright paced the squad with 41 points, also leading the way the following season with 39 points.

The 2016-17 season saw the Norskies climb to 6-4 in the standings, good enough for third place, led by Wright again with 37 points. In 2018-19, Nicholas Garnell led the way with 10 goals and 14 points and in 2019-20 he led the way again with 35 points, followed by current Dells Ducks player Bryce Jacobsen with 26 points.

McFarland Spartans

Overall Conference Record – (2014-17) 9-21-0

Conference Titles – None

Spartans were added to the Badger North in the fall of 2014 and played three seasons. The first two they finished fourth with a 3-7-0 record followed by a 4-6-0 mark. The team dropped to sixth in its final season with a 2-8-0 record.

William Kemnitz collected 40 points and was eighth in the league in scoring in 2014-15, Dillon Clark rounding out the top 10 with 34.

The following season, Dietrich Schwoerer led the way with 42 points, seventh best in Conference and in 2016-17 it was Grant Newcomer with 24 points.

Beaver Dam Golden Beavers

Overall Conference Record – (2017-20) 14-14-1

Conference Titles – None

The Golden Beavers were a nice fit in the Badger North. While the team never collected a conference title, it was in the mix most of the time. tough second halves dropped the team to 4-5 in its first season and 4-6 in 2018-19 and the Beavers finished at 6-3-1 in 2019-20, good enough for third place.

Sam Vander Hoeven racked up 48 points and finished second in league scoring in the team’s first season while Jay Kirschbaum was fifth with 44 points.

In 2018-19, Vander Hoeven finished at 48 points again, this time good enough for fourth in scoring and Daniel Smolen was 10 points behind, in sixth spot and Ben Cremers was ninth with 31.

Riley Vander Hoeven picked up 60 points in 2019-20 to finish fourth in scoring and Cremers was sixth with 50. Smolen was seventh with 45 points and Ian Conlin was tied for 11th with 35 points.