By Jim den Hollander
There’s one more game to go, but the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds clinched fifth place in the Badger West Conference with an 8-4 win at Monroe against the host Cheesemakers at Stateline Ice and Community Expo (SLICE) on Tuesday (Feb. 1).
The win shows that a team plagued with injuries and illness through much of the season could be taking shape in time for what will be a tough post season run.
Last time the new conference rivals met, the Thunderbirds claimed a 2-1 win at Pierce Park Pavilion Dec. 18. The win at SLICE saw the Thunderbirds coming up with its best offensive total this season.
Cheesemakers hit the scoreboard first and carried a 3-2 lead into the middle period. It was 4-2 7:50 from the end of the middle period, but it was all T-Birds after that.
Four goals in the final 7:03 had the Baraboo/Portage squad up 6-4 and they added two more unanswered goals in the final period to put it away.
Senior Gabe Fitzwilliams paced the Thunderbirds’ attack with two goals and two assists, sophomore Carson Zick adding two goals and an assist and senior Oliver Scanlan contributing a goal and two assists.
Senior Zach Huffaker also scored a pair with the other Thunderbirds’ goal fired by junior Peyton Sloan. Sophomore Bodie Thompson and junior Monte Hartmann picked up assists.
Both teams fired 12 shots in the opening period, Thunderbirds with a 15-9 edge in the middle frame and senior goaltender Andrew Schaetzl stopped all 15 shots he faced to allow his team to pad its margin despite being outshot 15-10. Overall, Thunderbirds held a 37-36 edge in shots.
The win boosted Thunderbirds to 4-18 and 2-7 in Badger West Conference play. Thunderbirds were scheduled to wrap up conference play Friday (Feb. 4) on home ice against the Badger West Conference leading Madison Edgewood Crusaders.
That will leave two games next week, the final home contest against the Avalanche at 7 p.m. Tuesday and its final game on the road in Waupun two days later, followed by playoffs which will get underway the following week.