Fun but stressful week of WIAA playoffs

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

Jimmy D’s Notes

  • The WIAA hockey post season has to be the most exciting, but also the most heartbreaking time of the hockey season. With my own coverage of four Sauk County teams, there was plenty of both.  

Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds  

  • First, the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds came up with what had to be their grittiest and best defensive effort for 34 minutes against the RWD Cheavers. For seniors like Oliver Scanlan, Gabe Fitzwilliams and in particular, goaltender Andrew Schaetzl among others they clearly saved their best for last and it was tough the game got away from them down the stretch against an RWD team that seemed to be on a misson. Another regular contributor was senior forward Zach Huffaker.
  •  It was a tough season from the start for the Thunderbirds with illness and injury among the contributing factors — three Thunderbird seniors — Kyle Poole, Luna Larson and Charlie Gibbs unforunately combined to appear in just 17 games.

RWD Cheavers 

  • A couple nights later and again, one of the Sauk County teams was leaving with heads low no matter what the final. The Eagles shrugged off a couple regular season losses against the Cheavers, using a key span in the middle period to put up four goals and then hold off a desperate RWD team through the game’s second half.  
  • For RWD, a group of players that have played varsity minutes since their freshman year – senior goaltender Cooper Oakes who will likely hold most of his team goaltending records for several seasons. Senior forward CJ Pfaff has had a great run. His grit and ability to kill time or find space when none seemed available made him a player that had to be on the ice in any close game. Senior forward Trevor Slaght, one of the best skaters around. It’s no coincidence, the team’s great 14-2 run that started in mid-December started right around the time Slaght made his surprisingly early return from an acl injury. 
  • Another surprise, the play of senior forward Tomas Korndorfer who was likely the team’s best sniper and played a part in giving the team two top lines 1A and 1B. 
  • On the blue line the tireless defensive play of senior Ty Thompson the team’s hardest hitter and Grant Marsich, also a physical force with a heavy shot and a knack for getting under the skin of his opponents. 
  • Depth forwards Carter Scully, Mitch Henke and Malachi Strompolis-Salama who made the most of every second they played for the varsity team and helped in a way many didn’t see – contributing their leadership and winning attitude to create an amazing competitive season for the players that will carry that into the future of the RWD program. 

Badger Lightning  

  • Official results are not available as this is written but a third Sauk County team wrapped up its season with a tough 3-0 defeat at Sun Prairie Ice Arena against the host Cap City Cougars.  
  • It was a different Lightning team that walked onto the ice there than the one that succumbed 8-0 a few years ago. Granted, the Cougars are a younger team this season, but the three Lightning seniors – Carson Blosenski, Signe Begalske and Emily Gunnel spent two seasons leading this team because there were no seniors on a short-staffed team last season.  
  • It says here, the Lightning will win its first playoff game in several seasons a year from now…it will be on home ice and the three players who are leaving the Lightning will deserve some credit for it. 
  • An official story on the game played Friday in Sun Prairie will appear on this facebook page later this weekend.

This is the first of a number of editorial type stories that will be posted in the next few days/weeks. One thing about the end of the hectic varsity season, it will give me a chance to say and thank a lot of people that I just haven’t had the time to do yet. 

But, for now, please join me in cheering on the Sauk Prairie Eagles. Let’s hope the third time is the charm at the Sectional semis and this is the team that can find a way past the Badger West Conference Champion Madison Edgewood Crusaders. 

Go get it boys. 

Four-goal middle period lifts Eagles over Cheavers 5-3

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

For a third straight season, the Sauk Prairie Eagles have advanced to the WIAA Sectional semi-finals and for a second straight season it came at the expense of the rival RWD Cheavers by a 5-3 margin at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) Thursday (Feb. 17) night. 

The second period, in particular a stretch of 6:08 that saw a 2-1 RWD lead turned into a 5-2 Eagles’ cushion. Of the four goals, Eagles produced one on a powerplay and another shorthanded.  

The Eagles held 18-6 shots lead through the period and carried that lead into the final 17 minutes. A desperate Cheavers team threw all it had at the Eagles in the final frame, but the Eagles showed a proficiency in playing a simple defensive game and breaking up numerous RWD rushes through the neutral zone.  

The final seven minutes the Cheavers found more success penetrating the Eagles’ end and it paid off with the second goal of the night for senior Trevor Slaght with 6:37 to play. That left plenty of time for two more, but the Eagles again mostly kept RWD chances to the outside. 

Senior Micah Hanson fired the game’s first goal, from senior defender Hakon Peterson 3:39 into the game but RWD struck back with two in 55 seconds from seniors Tomas Korndorfer and Slaght to grab its first lead 7:17 into the contest. 

Senior Grant Marsich, junior Caden Brandt and sophomore Brady Baldwin each contributed an assist on the first period markers. 

Peterson fired a seeing-eye slapper from the blue line that found its way past a host of bodies in front and past senior RWD goaltender Cooper Oakes who never saw it until it whizzed past him 92 seconds into the middle period. Senior Hanson and junior Luke Mast had the assists.  

RWD took a penalty, but the Eagles had also assessed one seconds later. Shortly after the Cheavers’ penalty expired, Nick Mast notched an unassisted shorty to put his team in front to stay. 

Senior Erik Peterson doubled the Eagles’ lead from the Mast brothers, senior Nick, and junior Luke just over three minutes later and an Eagles’ powerplay made it a three-goal cushion just under three minutes after that one.  

Hanson fired the power play tally with an assist for Luke Mast.  

The win pushed the Eagles’ overall season record to 19-4 on the season and they advance to the Sectional semis against the Madison Edgewood Crusaders who moved on with a narrow 3-2 edge against the Sun Prairie Cardinals.  

As this is written the date and time are still TBA but the game will likely be Tuesday night at La Bahn Arena in Madison.  

The other Sectional semi-final will match the second seeded Waunakee Warriors against number three Verona Wildcats who are also two-time defending Sectional 3 Champs. 

The Cheavers had one of its most successful seasons come to a sudden end. Even at 5-5 just before Christmas, it was a win against the same Eagles that sent the team on a 14-1 run heading into this one.  

Several RWD seniors played their final varsity contest, but at least a few will likely take part in the seniors tournament in a few weeks with the luxury of having some of the Eagles’ rivals as teammates. 

Rivals since they started out in youth hockey, Sauk Prairie Eagles senior Nick Mast and RWD senior Trevor Slaght met for an emotional sendoff at center ice following what will likely be their final game against each other. Unseen in the picture is RWD senior Grant Marsich standing behind. Mast will likely play as a teammate to the other two for the first time in a few weeks at the annual Seniors Tournament.