By Jim den Hollander
Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds snapped a five-game losing streak and broke into the Badger West win column with a 2-1 edge against the Monroe Cheesemakers at Pierce Park Pavilion on Saturday, Dec. 18.
The game was the middle match of three, a pair of losses against tough non-conference opponents in Janesville and Onalaska.
Preceding the win, on Dec. 16 was a 9-0 loss on the road against the Janesville Bluebirds and the Thunderbirds wrapped up the pre-Christmas portion of its schedule with an 8-2 loss at the Onalaska Omni Center against the host Onalaska/La Crosse Hilltoppers.
Cheesemakers 1 @ Thunderbirds 2
Thunderbirds have endured a tough first half of the season due in a big way to injuries and illness creating a revolving door to the locker room. It’s been tough in Monroe as well for a team full of promise thanks to a state championship bantam squad last season, but still young and learning the varsity ropes.
Senior goaltender Andrew Schaetzel made 29 stops to help the Thunderbirds collect the win despite a 30-22 edge in shots for the guests.
That goal was the fourth of the season for Monroe junior Seth Brandt, the lone goal of the opening period and it stood up until the game’s final minutes.
Senior Gabe Fitzwilliams hit the scoreboard for Thunderbirds with 3:59 to play with help from junior Peyton Sloan and sophomore Carson Zick put the home team in front for the first and only time 77 seconds from the final buzzer with assists for senior Oliver Scanlan and first-year Jordi Beale.
Thunderbirds 0 @ Bluebirds 9
The Bluebirds are off to a great start in the Big Eight Conference and collected in fifth win in six games on home ice against the Thunderbirds.
The hosts all but clinched the win with six first period goals including three in 1:23 late in the frame. After a rough first period, Schaetzl was stingier in goal for Baraboo/Portage allowing just three the rest of the way.
Thunderbirds 2 @ Hilltoppers 8
Off to an uncharacteristic slow start that included losses in each of its first four games this season, the Hilltoppers are scratching their way back and the win against Thunderbirds was the second of three straight for the perennial Mississippi Valley Conference champ.
Once again, the first period was tough for the visitors who fell behind 4-0 and the Hilltoppers struck back with three more in the second before the Thunderbirds scored its two goals 2:17 apart.
Senior Oliver Scanlan scored the first, his fourth goal of the season from junior Landon Olson. The other goal came from first-year Nathan Gneiser with help from senior Gabe Fitzwilliams and junior Peyton Sloan.
Senior Andrew Schaetzl and first-year Burke Schweda shared the work in goal for the Thunderbirds, combining on a 34-save effort.
Thunderbirds hit the Christmas Break with a 2-7 overall record, 1-2 in Badger West Conference play.