By Jim den Hollander
The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds head into the 2021-22 WIAA varsity season with a solid group of senior leaders but Head Coach David Clark has had a tough time fielding a full roster in the early days of the season.
Illness and injury have sidelined some key players at both forward and defensive positions, but Clark is hopeful this adversity will be over quickly.
With the seniors, the original hope was to be a more competitive team this season, but Coach Clark, a former WIAA State Champion (with Arrowhead) said after a recent practice, his number one concern is to get a healthy group of players on the ice to provide a challenge (see Youtube video below).
Thunderbirds are coming off an 8-11 season in 2021-21 and looking to improve to .500 and above with a solid group of returners.
Senior Gabe Fitzwilliams was second on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 24 points in 18 games while Oliver Scanlan, another incoming senior, was close behind with five goals and 20 points.
Luna Lavin, a rugged, physical defender has been a force since his freshman season, not only as rugged, punishing defener, but as an offensive presence. Last season he collected eight goals and 17 points in 19 games played.
In goal, senior Andrew Schaetzl played in all but one game and won eight for the Thunderbirds last season. The other game saw Burke Schweda, a sophomore getting the start. Coach Clark said the pair are engaged in a healthy battle for the top spot in practices leading up to the season.
Thunderbirds lucked out a bit on the schedule with players sidelined. While others will began play as early as this past Friday, the T-Birds will not play its opener until Saturday when it plays host to the Middleton Cardinals at Pierce Park Pavilion. Clark is hoping for a healthier lineup in time for that game.
First conference match for the local squad will be Dec. 2 when it makes the trip to Oregon for new Badger West Conference rival, Oregon Panthers.
The first meeting of the Thunderbirds and RWD Cheavers will take place Dec. 7 at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA)