Badger West This Week — game on in Conference

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.  


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. 


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. 


Thunderbirds full roster finally in place

By Jim den Hollander 


The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds played with a full lineup for the first time this season on Monday, but fell to the visiting Madison LaFollette/East Lakers by a 6-3 score.  

The home side held the edge in shots but couldn’t bury one until late in the second period the Lakers had an insurmountable 4-0 lead.  

Seniors Oliver Scanlan and Gabe Fitzwilliams teamed up on the lone Baraboo goal through two periods, Scanlan pulling the trigger, but the Lakers added another to carry a 5-1 cushion into the final frame.  

Thunderbirds carried some momentum out of the contest with a 2-1 edge on the scoreboard and a 10-6 margin on the shot clock. 

Fitzwilliams and Scanlan fired the goals with help from Carson Zick, Kyle Buelow and Jordi Beale.  

The loss dropped the Thunderbirds to 1-3 on the season so far and 0-1 in conference heading into a key Badger West Conference match Tuesday (Dec. 7) at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) against the 2-3 RWD Cheavers. 

Both teams enter the game having dropped their respective conference openers. 

Sanderfoot hat trick leads Cougars past Lightning

By Jim den Hollander 


The Badger Lightning has maintained a record north of .500 through its first five games of the 2021-22 varsity season, dropping its most recent contest, 6-1 against the Cap City Cougars at Waunakee Ice Pond on Monday (Dec. 6, 2021). 

The Cougars are a team the Lightning have never defeated and part of the team’s goal this season was to cut the gap on those teams that have dominated them in WIAA Badger Conference play for the past decade.  

At first glance, a 6-1 defeat might not seem like a step forward but the shots on goal shows a drastic defensive improvement from a team tired of being pushed around on the shot clock.  

The one thing the Lightning couldn’t overcome, at least early, was the play of Cougars forward Keegan Sanderfoot. After scoring twice in the game’s first minute, Sanderfoot wrapped up a natural hat trick later in the opening period as the host Cougars rolled to a 4-0 first period cushion.  

Sophomore goaltender Alyssa Gada endured her first rough period of the season but made up for it, kicking out all but two of the 16 shots she faced the rest of the way.  

The Lightning held a 7-4 edge on the shot clock through the middle period and the margin paid off as junior Kayla Capener fired her fifth goal of the season with assists for Audrey Hanko and senior Signe Begalske.  

Capener has collected at least a point in all five games played for the Lightning this season.  

The Cougars regained control on the shot clock and fired two more in the final period, on its way to a 26-15 edge overall.  

The Lightning fell to 1-2 in Badger Conference play and faced another tough assignment on Friday as the 6-0 (1-0 Badger Conference) Metro Lynx will be in town for another conference test. 

Cougars give Ducks rude welcome from break

By Jim den Hollander 


The Dells Ducks made its return to action from a brief Thanksgiving Break and got a rude reintroduction in the Windy City.  

Playing at Fifth Third Arena, the practice facility of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, the Ducks entered the weekend with some hope, having stunned the Chicago Cougars in the season opener back in September with a 5-4 overtime win. 

Dells Ducks

The Ducks opened and closed the scoring in the opening contest, but the Cougars piled up seven in between to rack up the 7-2 win on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, the Cougars tightened its grip a little further and captured a 12-0 shutout win. 

In the Saturday contest, Jayden Tkaczuk (02/Chanahon, IL)  responded to anyone wondering if he would be ok following a brutal hit from behind in the team’s last game at the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase in November in the games first two minutes.  

Tkaczuk collected his seventh goal of the season, converting a Kai Neuemaier (‘03/St. Charles, IL) feed for the game’s opening goal 90 seconds into the contest.  

The Cougars tied the game 50 seconds later and the Ducks never got a sniff of the lead again. The home team was up 3-1 after a period and sank four more unanswered in the middle period, led by TJ Haas who fired three. 

Bryce Jacobsen (‘02/DeForest, WI) rounded out the scoring with the lone goal of the final period, his ninth of the season, from Jack Kopfsetein (‘05/Vista, CA) and Gage Senio (‘04/Red Deer, AB) 

The Cougars held a massive 54-27 edge in shots including a 28-3 margin through the middle period.  

On Sunday, the second period was again a lopsided stretch as the home side turned a 4-0 first period cushion into a 10-0 gap on its way to a 12-0 win and a 60-18 margin on the shot clock. 

The wins wrapped up the four-game season series between the Ducks and Cougar, 3-0-1 in Chicago’s favor.  

The Ducks will play its first home game in a month and its final home game of 2021 Thursday night when the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings pay a visit for a rare Thursday night contest at the Lake Delton Ice Arena.  

Opening faceoff on Thursday will be 7:30 p.m.

Begalske, Olson lift Lightning past Union

By Jim den Hollander 


It’s still early, but the Badger Lightning varsity squad remains undefeated on home ice following a 3-2 win Saturday night against Wisconsin Valley Union at Pierce Park Pavilion.  

The Lightning, rebounded from its first defeat of the season and boosted its home record to 3-0 thanks to some early scoring from senior Signe Begalske and late heroics from freshman Reese Olson. 

Begalske notched the only goal of the first period, converting a pass from junior Kayla Capener and that lead held up all the way to the final period.  

Eight seconds into the third, the Lightning doubled its lead, Olson and Carson Blosenski getting quick touches and relaying the puck again to Begalske for the goal.  

Sophomore goaltender Alyssa Gada turned in another stellar game between the pipes, stopping all 15 of the shots thrown at her in the first two periods. The Union finally found a way past her 93 seconds into the third as Leah Pavelski sank her first of a pair in the game. 

The other goal came with 6:56 to go, tying the game and setting the stage for Olson who put the Lightning in front again just 63 seconds from the final buzzer with help from Capener and Blosenski.  

The non-conference win boosted the Lightning record to 3-1.