By Jim den Hollander
The RWD varsity Cheavers hockey team showed the grit and poise shown at the recent Monk’s Cheeseburger Classic was not temporary, putting together its best 51-minute effort of the season so far in a thrilling 4-2 Badger West Conference win against the Oregon Panthers Thursday night at the Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA).
The Cheavers never trailed but didn’t have the game fully under control until an empty netter from Trevor Slaght with 27 seconds to play.
The win extends the team’s current winning streak to seven games dating back to the team’s previous meeting with the Panthers, a 5-1 loss on Dec. 15.
The team honored its seniors and their parents between the warm-up and pre-game flood.
All three forward lines and defense pairs along with senior goaltender Cooper Oakes played to expectations and Head Coach Neil Mattson showed he was not afraid to put anybody on the ice in high pressure situations. And, considering the Panthers entered the game with the state’s top three points leaders and are currently ranked second in state among Division 2 teams, that is a pretty darn high level of pressure.
RWD hit the scoreboard first, senior Tomas Korndorfer hitting the mesh from a tough angle 7:29 into the contest and sophomore Brady Baldwin buried a pass from Korndorfer to give the host Cheavers a 2-0 cushion at the first period break.
Andrew Jicha fired his state-leading 28th goal of the season for the Panthers early in the second period and a penalty called in the final minute of the frame gave the visitors reason for optimism at the break.
Senior C.J. Pfaff turned the tables though, intercepting a pass and heading the other way alone, making several moves before depositing the puck into the Oregon cage for a shorthanded goal 31 seconds into the final period.
The only issue the team struggled with was some tough penalty calls in the second half. After the Panthers were assessed the first four infractions of the game, the Cheavers had the finger pointed at them five consecutive times from the 11:33 mark of the second to the 12:01 mark of the third.
Successful at killing off the first four, the Panthers finally found a way through as senior Joe Roemer buried one bar down from about 40 feet out with 3:42 to play.
That set the stage for Slaght’s clincher with assists for Pfaff and sophomore Trey Lariden.
Overall, the Cheavers held a 35-27 edge in shots.
The win boosted the team’s overall record to 11-5 and more importantly, boosted its Badger West Conference record to 4-2, keeping league title hopes alive.
The Panthers fell to 9-6 and 2-4 since its previous win against the Cheavers and their conference record falls to 3-3.
Next up for the Cheavers is another conference battle as they travel to Pierce Park Pavilion on Tuesday (Jan. 11) and the Panthers will also move on to play at Pierce Park on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.