By Jim den Hollander
A 51-minute season opening junior varsity contest was ultimately decided in the first 28 seconds of the third period at Reedsburg Area Community Arena.
A stellar effort in goal for Burke Schweda wasn’t enough for the visiting Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds as the host RWD Cheavers turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead with two goals in those opening 28 seconds, adding one more later to wrap up a 5-3 win.
The game was the season opener for both teams.
The Cheavers held a 15-5 edge in shots through the opening 17-minute session, but Schweda kicked out 14 of them, beaten just once as senior Malachi Strombolis-Salama scored his first of two in the contest with 4:23 to play in the frame, slamming home the rebound of a shot by sophomore defenseman Mark Othmer.
The lead lasted just over a minute before senior Zach Huffaker tied it with help from junior Peyton Sloan.
The 1-1 draw carried into the middle period and the T-Birds moved in front for the first time 2:40 into the frame with a goal from Daniel Yesipovich set up by senior Charlie Gibbs.
This time it was RWD rallying back quick as sophomore Connor Putz buried one unassisted 87 seconds later.
Huffaker notched another just 27 seconds after the Putz goal, from junior Landon Olson and that carried into the second period break.
A fired-up Cheavers’ team came out of the locker room and Strombolis-Salama notched his second just 10 seconds into the frame with assists for senior Carter Scully and junior Nate Stando.
Scully stayed on the ice and notched the game winner 18 seconds later, with help from Stando and Othmer.
Stando collected his third point of the period, scoring a clincher near the halfway mark from freshman Caden Uminski and Strombolis-Salama.
The Cheavers JV squad was playing its first of four games this week as they will open for the varsity squad in Wisconsin Rapids Tuesday and then play twice at a tournament in Somerset Friday and Saturday.
Thunderbirds will play next on Saturday at Pierce Park Pavilion against the visiting Middleton Cardinals.