By Jim den Hollander
BADGER WEST THIS WEEK (Nov. 29 – Dec. 5, 2021)
The Badger West entered the first round of head-to-head conference matches in the second full week of the season and early results were mostly lopsided.
Oregon Panthers and Madison Edgewood Crusaders both enjoyed two-win weeks while the Sauk Prairie Eagles won its only game and remain the lone undefeated squad in the group. The RWD Cheavers picked up a big win but dropped its conference opener while the Monroe Cheesemakers and Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds both dropped a pair.
All six teams will play key conference matches in the week ahead so the conference championship picture will begin to take shape.
OREGON PANTHERS (4-1-0, 1-0 Badger West)
A wild 20-goal contest saw the Panthers opening conference play with a 14-6 edge against the visiting Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds on Thursday (Dec. 2) and following it up with a 6-2 win the following night, also on home ice against former Badger South rival, McFarland Spartans.
Those results give the Panthers an overall 42-19 edge on opponents through five games and the trio of Andrew Jicha, Kyle Rohrer and Joe Roemer have combined for 79 points, holding down the top three spots in the state.
Week ahead – A three-game week begins and ends with conference matches. The Panthers were scheduled to play at Stateline Ice and Community Expo (SLICE) on Monday and wrap it up with a visit to the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) on Thursday night. In between, the Panthers will play host to the Janesville Bluebirds on Tuesday.
MADISON EDGEWOOD CRUSADERS (3-1, 1-0 Badger West)
The Crusaders had most of the week to practice and prepare for Friday and Saturday matches, opening its Badger-West Conference schedule with a 4-2 win at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) on Friday night and adding another 4-1 decision against the Madison Memorial Spartans at Hartmeyer Ice Arena on Saturday.
The wins give the Crusaders a three-game winning streak and the trio of J.J. Wiebusch, Cody Menzel and Aidan Lenz were in on all four goals against RWD. They combined for 16 points in the two games.
Week Ahead – After four on the road to open the season, the Crusaders have three in a row at LaBahn Ice Arena but just one this week, Tuesday against the visiting Sauk Prairie Eagles.
SAUK PRAIRIE EAGLES (3-0, 1-0 Badger West)
The Eagles played just once this past weekend, traveling to SLICE and opening Badger West for an overwhelming 9-0 win against the Monroe Cheesemakers, giving the Eagles a total of 24 goals through its first three contests.
The Mast brothers, senior Nick and junior Luke are off to strong offensive starts, combining on 25 points so far and junior goaltenders Kaden Stracke and Brooks McInerney shared the shutout in Monroe.
Week Ahead – The Eagles have a massive week ahead playing both other first round conference winners. On Tueday the Eagles will be at LaBahn Ice Arena to face the Madison Edgewood Crusaders and on Thursday, the Eagles host the Oregon Panthers at SPARC.
RWD CHEAVERS (2-3, 0-1 Badger West)
The Cheavers opened the week with a big 5-4 overtime win against the visiting Onalaska Hilltoppers, the first regular season win against Onalaska since the RWD program was formed in 2010. Despite another solid effort, the Cheavers came up short against the Crusaders on Friday, snapping a two-game winning streak and putting the team under .500 once again.
RWD has been outscored 16-14 through five games and led offensively by junior Caden Brandt in on 10 of their goals.
Senior goaltender Cooper Oakes has stopped 193 of 209 shots for a .929 Save Percentage to rank among the state’s best puck stoppers.
Week Ahead – After a big rivalry game at RACA against the Thunderbirds Tuesday night, the Cheavers will make the trip to Monroe Thursday to face the Cheesemakers and wrap up a busy week with a non-conference duel against Baldwin-Woodville Hawks on Saturday in Reedsburg.
BARABOO/PORTAGE THUNDERBIRDS (1-3, 0-1 Badger West)
The 14-goals against at Oregon might be the most allowed in a game since the Badger/Portage Co-op was founded in 2010, but the six goals for in the same game was easily the team’s best offensive showing in a crazy game.
The Thunderbirds have endured a season’s worth of adversity with injuries and illness hampering the lineup but senior forwards such as Gabe Fitzwilliams and Oliver Scanlan have been contributing.
Week Ahead – Thunderbirds have already opened a busy week, dropping a 4-1 non-conference decision to Madison LaFollette-East at Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo Monday and travelling the following night to its conference test at RACA in Reedsburg.
On Thursday, the Thunderbirds will play a non-conference game against the Brookfield Stars at Pierce Park Pavilion.
MONROE CHEESEMAKERS (1-5, 0-1 Badger West)
The Cheesemakers dropped its Conference opener on the road 9-0 against the Sauk Prairie Eagles Thursday and fell 7-2 against KMMO (Kettle Moraine/Mukwonago/Oconomowoc) at SLICE Saturday.
The losses dropped the Cheesemakers to 1-5. Seth Brandt scored both goals against KMMO.
Week Ahead – The road will stay tough for the Cheesemakers with the Oregon Panthers scheduled to pay a visit Monday and RWD will be in Monroe for a Thursday night test. The Cheesemakers will hit the road Saturday wrapping up a three-game week against the Muskego Co-Op Ice Force at Wilson Ice Arena in Milwaukee.