‘Coop’ taking his act to the State of Hockey

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

For the past decade or more, the “Coop!” chants have echoed through local arenas, primarily the Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA). 

Now the State of Hockey will become aware of the talented goaltender as he officially signed a contract with the Willmar Warhawks of the North American ‘3’ Hockey League. 

After being the man to beat in goal for Polars and South-Central Cyclones teams as a youth hockey player, Cooper Oakes (‘03/Reedsburg) rewrote the RWD varsity Cheavers’ goaltending record book, playing 4,344 minutes in 89 games.  

During that stretch Oakes kicked out 2,144 of 2,357 shots for a Goals Against Average of 2.50 and a Save Percentage of .910. He started his varsity career with a shutout in Wisconsin Rapids in the fall of 2018 and went on to add another 12 goose eggs over his varsity career.  

Cooper Oakes signed his contract to play with the Willmar Warhawks of the NA3HL West Division Sunday, flanked by his parents, Billy and Bretta at Therapy Without Walls on Sunday afternoon. Oakes will attend the main camp in August with the regular season getting underway after Labor Day.

Oakes plans to attend a few camps, including the Dells Ducks’ session June 17-19 in Aurora, IL, but he is locked in with the Warhawks for the upcoming hockey season.  

Oakes made it official, signing with parents and RWD players and coaches at Therapy Without Walls in Reedsburg Sunday (May 29) afternoon. 

In an interview (see video below) at the signing, Oakes said there were several teams in the mix, but the Warhawks became the obvious choice for him. 

“I talked with Coach (Connor) White on the phone several different times now. He seems like a good guy, a great coach and it just seemed like the right fit,” summed up Oakes.  

Coach White said he received a tip on Oakes which he confirmed by checking out some video.

“In this case, I did receive a tip on Cooper and right away felt like there was something there that could help the WarHawks be better both on and off the ice,” said the coach. “Video had later been exchanged and reviewing that video and then speaking to Cooper himself over some phone calls. That just confirmed everything that we had been told and I believed Cooper would bring from a performance, competitive, work ethic, and character standpoint. We are very excited to see Cooper compete in late August when we will begin.”

Along with those in attendance, a special video message from NHL Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr was shown as he personally wished Oakes luck on his next venture.  

The Warhawks were one of six teams in the highly competitive NA3HL West Division. This past season the team finished third in regular season play with a record of 32-14-1. Willmar is a city of a little more than 20,000 population, west of the Twin Cities, about a 5-hour drive from Reedsburg. 

Crossover games with the Midwest Division could see the team visiting Milwaukee, Chippewa Falls and possibly Oregon at some point in 2022-23.

Jacobsen to don ‘C’ for Ducks again in 2022/23

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

The Dells Ducks are looking to improve on a tough year and instill a renewed winning culture in the tourist town, but there is one throwback they cannot do without.

Two seasons ago, Jacobsen, then a captain with the DeForest Norskies, turned lemons into lemonade, joining the Dells Ducks. It could not have been a better arrangement between the player and team.

Jacobsen will be the second player in team history (joining Chris Vella before him) to return for a second season as team captain. Despite a pair of rough seasons, Jacobsen’s presence has been an overwhelming positive for the team.

Head Coach Anthony Rohde made the easiest decision of the off season, bringing back Jacobsen as the team captain.

“The work ethic and drive to win is why Bryce has the ‘C’ again, said Rohde in an email interview. “It’s the attitude I want all the players to have.”

Locals were somewhat familiar with Jacobsen before he joined the team in the middle of the 2020-21 campaign as he played for the rival DeForest Norskies in the rival Badger North varsity league that all three Sauk County teams played in at the time.

With the pandemic destroying his final varsity season (Norskies were one of a few teams that decided not to play during that season), Jacobsen shifted his gaze to one of his semi-local junior teams.

“After my first skate, when Coach Falzone asked how I liked it. I told him I loved it,” said Jacobsen in an email interview. “Then, he asked if I wanted to play in the games that weekend. After that, I was all in. I loved how fast the practice was and how we did a lot of skill work.”

Jacobsen played in just 23 games that season but wrapped it up among the team’s leading scorers. The attributes listed above prompted Coach Falzone to select him among several returners to take the responsibility of being captain.

“When Coach Falzone named me captain I was a little surprised,” said the 6’3” 190-pound center. “I was very happy to be named captain. I was one of the captains in high school.”

DeForest’s Bryce Jacobsen, shown in action during the 2021-22 regular season, will be back as the Dells Ducks’ team captain for the upcoming USPHL Premier Midwest West regular season beginning in September.

Jacobsen and the Ducks endured another tough season but through it all, he continued to lead by example with his dedication, hard work and leadership by example. Jacobsen was on the ice in every situation, contributing 12 goals and 31 points. He and his teammates believed they could win no matter who the opponent was.

“Every week we would prepare for our opponents, and we would always have a positive mindset,” said Jacobsen. “At some points of the season, it was hard, but with the leadership of our veterans, we were able to keep a positive mindset.”

The captain said the frustrations of last season have inspired him and the other returners to make things different this time around.

“The other returners and I have had a long offseason just thinking about how we can’t wait to get back to the Dells to start the 22-23 season. We all feel like we have something to prove. Coach Rohde is bringing in a bunch of great guys that are skilled and ready to put in the work to make it a great winning season.”

Leadership and attitude are Jacobsen’s contributions. On the ice, he plays every shift with ferocity and while he may not win as many style points as some other players, his bull in a China shop approach in front of the net has been a factor in him getting pucks over the goal line.

Perhaps his most notable asset is his contribution in the faceoff circle. Actual statistics were not available but anyone paying attention is aware he wins far more than he loses at the dot. Reflexes and natural ability play a part, but Jacobsen works hard on faceoffs as well.

“Coach Rhode and I spend a lot of time working on faceoffs and how to consistently win them,” said Jacobsen. “We would even watch film on just faceoffs.”

Jacobsen will enter his final season with 17 goals and 40 points to his credit in 66 career games. He seldom missed a game over the previous two seasons and if he is able to continue that trend, he will be wind up in an elite group that includes just five players currently, with 100 or more games played as a Duck.

Rohde and Jacobsen will officially begin the reboot when the team reconvenes in September, but the future skate held at the end of last season and tryouts coming up in the Chicago area in June will give them a chance to get things started. For Jacobsen, an ‘02, this will be one final kick at it and over the course of the season he will also finalize the next chapter of both his education and hockey career.

“There were a few colleges that talked to me in the showcases,” said the captain adding, “When making a decision on where I will go to college, I want to go to a school that has a strong business program, and a good hockey program.”

Area players play role in Blue Devils’ spring season

By Jim den Hollander
Editor/Publisher
Saukhockey.info
A large number of RWD hockey players have avoided a lull in their schedule by trying out for and making the Western Wisconsin Blue Devils Summer Hockey teams.


Most of the teams attended three tournaments, wrapping up this past weekend.
Details on the events were limited, but following is a list of teams that included local players and the details this reporter was able to garner.

’08 Blue Devils

The ’08 Blue Devils began its three-tournament season at the Border Battle Tournament with RJ Manley, a fixture with the Tomah-based squad for several seasons included in the lineup along with Thomas Sarnow.

Manley, an incoming RWD freshman and his teammates started out with an impressive 8-1 win against Blaze (Gold) at Somerset Ice Arena April 22, then returned the following day battling Breakaway to a 1-1 draw in Forest Lake and moving back to the win column with a 5-2 decision against Ice Edge in Woodbury, MN.

The Blue Devils wrapped up top spot in its six-team group with another 5-2 margin on April 24 against the St. Croix Muskies, played in Forest Lake.

At the Shock Doctor Tournament played in the Twin Cities area, the Blue Devils played in the six-team ’08 Upper draw, beginning April 29 with a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Lake Superior Pirates at Brooklyn Park.

The following day, the North Metro Stars doubled the Blue Devils 4-2 but the Devils stormed back with an 8-2 win against FCA Hockey (Blue), both games played in Maple Grove.

In the first of two games Sunday, the Blue Devils were shutout 4-0 by Hockey Haven and they wrapped up a busy weekend, settling for fourth place after a 5-2 loss against the Madison Capitols in the third-place contest.

The team wrapped up the compact season playing this past weekend in the Mountain Dew Blast Tournament, also in the Twin Cities area. No details from that event were available at the time of printing this article.

’09 Blue Devils


A group of players from the Regional Champion RWD Peewee ‘A’ Cheavers stayed united on this team. Tyler Krieski and Ethan Pope both made the trip with the team to the Border Battle Tournament in Hudson.
Playing at the AAA level is a giant step for players generally playing in smaller centers and the tournament was primarily a learning experience.
After dropping a 10-3 decision against the Eskimos in the first game, April 22, the Devils played twice the following day, doubling the Minnesota Magicians 8-4 before falling 7-3 against Tommy Chicago later the same day.
The Blue Devils returned to play Tommy Chicago again Sunday falling 8-3.
Scoring details were unavailable.
Krieski and Pope were joined by Ethan Wilcox and Hailey Dietl a few weeks later at the Shock Doctor Shootout played at several rinks in the Twin Cities area as well as the final tournament.
The caliber was tough again in the State of Hockey, the Blue Devils opening April 29 with a tough 3-1 loss against All Out Hockey and returning the following day for a 5-2 loss against Hockey Factory from Fond du Lac, eventual championships in their 12-team division and a 2-2 draw against Arvada 2009. On Sunday, the team played in the 9th place match but settled for 10th following a 5-1 win against the same Arvada team.
The team turned in its best effort at the end, settling for fourth place at the Mountain Dew Blast played at the National Sports Center Super Rinks in Blaine, MN, along with a few others. No game or roster details were available from this event played this past weekend but the ’09 team wrapped up fourth place.

’09 Blue Devils

’10 Blue Devils


This team that also included a trio of members from the Peewee ‘A’ Cheavers attended the same events as their ’09 teammates — Landen Uminski, Noah Backeberg and Jesse Arnold. Also, from the Sauk Prairie Flyers, Logan Harrington played in all three events while Michael Jolicoeur and Braden Slough joined for the final two.
At the Border Battle Tournament, the ’10 Devils played its first two games in St. Croix, falling 4-1 in its opening contest against MPH Gold before bouncing pack with a 3-2 win against Blaze (Gold) later on Friday April 22.
The Blue Devils stepped across the border to Woodbury and collected a 9-3 win against the Rivertown Muskies (Green) Saturday.
On Sunday, the Devils wrapped up in Hudson, dropping a 4-0 shutout against the Eskimos.
Scoring details were unavailable.
At the Shock Doctor tournament, the local players joined the Blue Devils in the 10-team ’10-Lower’ Division.
The team again continued its summer arena tour appearing in two more, beginning with a 4-1 loss against the Wisconsin Jr. Jets in Maple Grove, MN.
The remaining games were played at Pagel Rink in Minnetonka, MN. The Devils clearly found it to be like home, collecting a 6-5 win against Arvada 2010 Saturday morning and a 4-1 decision against Rivertown Muskies (Blue) later the same day.
An 8-2 win Sunday morning against Hockey Factory Lake Country advanced the Blue Devils into the Consolation Championship game and the locals stayed hot with its fourth straight win at Pagel, 7-4 against the MN Lakers (White).
The Blue Devils wrapped up its short Spring/Summer season with a spot at the Mountain Dew Blast this past weekend where the ’10 Blue Devils wrapped up its season with a tournament championship.

The 2010 Blue Devils took the championship at the Mountain Dew Tournament Championship on May 15.

U-14 Girls Blue Devils


This division included four locals — Kayla Garbacz and Reese Olson who played as freshmen on the Badger Lightning varsity hockey team this past season along with Paige Othmer and Ryleigh Bychinski who reached the U-14 State Championship match with Tomah’s TNT Squad and will join the Lightning in the late fall.
This team first played at the Border Battle Tournament, opening play in Baldwin, WI with a 5-2 loss against the St. Croix Selects Friday April 22, before bouncing back the same day at Woodbury, MN with a 2-0 shutout against Ice Cougar East.
The following day, back in Baldwin, the U-14’s played Hometown Hockey to a 2-2 draw before wrapping it up in Baldwin with a 6-0 win against MPH Gold.
On May 6 the Devils travelled to the Twin Cities to compete in the Spring Stampede, opening with a 3-0 shutout against Minnesota Hook at the Buffalo Civic Center and following it up with another goose egg, 6-0 against the South DC Tigers at the Super Rinks in Blaine.
The Blue Devils moved on to a 4-4 draw in its third game (opponent unclear) at Blaine’s Fogerty Ice Arena, then moved on to Elk River Ice Arena to pick up a 5-2 win against Stampede Green.
That moved the Devils into the tournament championship game where they came up just short 3-1 against Northern Elite White.
The 14U squad finished it’s summer schedule with a spot at the Midwest Invite Tournament in Appleton May 13-15.
In its opening match, the Blue Devils dropped a 3-1 decision against the Green Bay Hornets. Garbacz scored the lone Blue Devils’ marker in the second period.
The following day Olson fired a pair and set up another with another goal from Bychinski as the Blue Devils got by the Milwaukee Tuskers 5-1. Later Saturday Hockey Factory Madison handed the locals a 2-0 loss.
On Sunday, Othmer led the way with a goal and assist, Olson adding another goal and Garbacz setting up one in a 4-0 shutout against the Fox Cities Bulldogs, wrapping up third place for the Devils.

U-12 Girls Blue Devils

The U-12 Blue Devils, including Hailey Dietl wrapped up a solid spring season with the championship banner at the Midwest Invite Tournament in the Madison area.


Hailey Dietl did double duty playing for the U12 Girls Blue Devils as well as the ’09 squad.
The team played three events as well, beginning with the Ignite the Ice/Trailblazer Tournament April 8-10 in the Twin Cities.
Starting out with a 4-3 edge against the Red River Flames (Red) team on Friday night, they found the Red River Flames (Black) tougher on Saturday morning, falling 4-1. Later on Saturday, the Blue Devils responded with a 7-0 shutout win against Hometown Blue.
On Sunday, the second seeded Blue Devils collected a 4-1 win agianst Red River Flames which moved them into the tournament championship where they ran into Red River Flames (Black) again, settling for runners up 6-1.
Next up was Spring Stampede, May 6-8 also at the Elk River Ice Arena.
The Blue Devils opened with an 8-1 win against the Majors and also blew by Blue Army Red 8-0, then played the Railhawks to a 5-5 draw.
A 9-1 win in semis against the Majors sent the Blue Devils to a rematch with the Railhawks in the Championship game, but it was the Railhawks hoisting the hardware with a 1-0 win.
Wrapping up the season, the Blue Devils played in the U-12 Midwest-Invite in the Madison area, wrapping up the season in style with five straight wins and a championship trophy.
In the first game, the Devils downed Hockey Factory, Fond du Lac 7-1 on Friday at McFarland Community Ice Arena.
On Saturday, the Devils earned a 3-2 edge against Milwaukee Tuskers at Verona’s Eagles Nest, then returned to McFarland for a massive 13-0 shutout against Them Girls.
A 9-2 win in McFarland against the Hornets send the Devils to the championship game where it was joined by Dietl who played for the ’09 team in Minnesota on the same weekend.
Dietl scored twice and set up the other, leading the Devils to a 3-0 win in the championship game against the Tuskers. Brooke Lakowske was on the receiving end of the pass from Dietl for her goal and returned the favor with assists on both Dietl markers.

’11 Blue Devils


Rainier Scott, a member of the RWD Squirts played for the ’11 Blue Devils who attended the same three events as the older Blue Devils’ teams, beginning with the Border Battle April 22-24.
The competitition was tough for the ’11 Blue Devils who dropped four games. The first three, an 8-1 loss against the Guardians (Gray), 6-1 against the Blaze (Gold) and 8-1 against the OP Predators were played Friday and Saturday at St. Croix Rec Center and the final game, a 6-3 doubling by the MN Magicians was played in Hudson.
At the Shock Doctor event April 29-May 1, the Blue Devils played in the 10-team U-11 Lower Division.
After opening with a 4-3 win against the Wisconsin Titans at the Pagel Rink in Minnetonka Friday, the team moved to Eden Prairie Saturday, dropping an 8-1 decision against the Majors and settling for a 5-5 draw against MN Steel.
On Sunday, the U11’s wrapped up the weekend, dropping a 7-4 decision to the Wildcats, also at Eden Prairie.
Like the others, the U-11 Blue Devils finished the schedule at the Mountain Dew Blast which currently has no details available.

’12 Blue Devils

Briar Messer, another member of the RWD Squirt ‘A’ squad played for the ‘U12 Blue Devils which opened its season at the Border Battle event April 22-24 as well.
The Devils started on the Friday in Somerset dropping a 3-1 decision against the Guardians (Gray), then headed to Woodbury on the Minnesota side of the border, battling the Ice Hawks to a 3-3 draw Saturday morning.
Back in Somerset later Saturday, the Devils collected an 8-1 win against Lake’s Elite and they wrapped up play Sunday with a 6-3 doubling of Blaze (Gold).
At the end of April at the Shock Doctor tournament, the ’12 Blue Devils played all games at Shakopee Rink, starting out with a 7-0 win Friday against. the Daggers.
On Saturday, Devils collected an 8-1 win against the B-E Bombers (Red) but suffrered a 5-1 loss later in the day against the Fox City Bulldogs.
On Sunday, the Devils suffered a 9-1 loss against the AAA Velocity who later claimed the division championship while the Blue Devils moved on to down the Wisconsin Jets 5-1 and wrap up third place.
Like many of the other Blue Devils teams, the ’12 squad finished at the Mountain Dew Blast this past weekend, wrapping up the spring schedule with a third place showing.

’13-14 Blue Devils

Jase Uminski, Owen Meyer and Bentley Meyer played a part for the ’13-14 Blue Devils who attended the same three events as the other Blue Devils teams.
At the Border Battle, April 22-24, the ’13 Blue Devils won four straight games, beginning Friday with a 7-6 edge against the Blaze (Gold) squad in Hastings, MN.
On Saturday, the Devils pounded PH Grit 10-3 and downed the Guardians (Gray) 5-2, both games played in St. Croix.
The team wrapped up top spot with a rematch and a 9-3 win against Blaze (Gold).
Blue Devils were one of 16 teams at the Shock Doctor Shoot Out and got the tournament off to a great start with a 7-0 win against the WI Jr. Jets at Eden Prairie Friday followed by a 6-3 decision against Ice Edge (Blue) Saturday at the same rink.
Later Saturday, the Blue Devils dropped an 8-1 decision against the MN Lakers at Braemar Arena in Edina.
Those results put the team into a 7th place battle against the same Guardians (Gray) team it played a few weeks earlier. The Devils clinched the spot with a 5-3 edge.
Last weekend, the ’13 Blue Devils finished the schedule at the Mountain Dew Blast, reaching the championship game.

The 2013-14 Blue Devils took top spot at the 2022 Border Battle Tournament.

Aeschlimann backstops Swiss team to third straight win

By Jim den Hollander
Editor/Publisher
Saukhockey.info
Former Dells Ducks goaltender Sandro Aeschlimann has once again put on the jersey of his home country and led the Swiss National team to its third straight win at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships in Finland.

Sandro Aeschlimann


Aeschlimann, 27, is one of three goaltenders for the Swiss National team and each have made the most of an opportunity to patrol the crease for Switzerland so far.
Aeschlimann, a native of Zazlwil, Switzerland played for the Ducks in 2014-15, appearing in the most memorable home game to date, a 1-0 win to clinch the Bush Cup Championship (MNJHL). He appeared in 32 regular season games and seven more in the post season, posting a sub 2.00 goals against average and a Save Percentage of .935 in the regular season and .958 in the playoffs.
After the Ducks, Aeschlimann played a season of NCAA Division 3 hockey at Elimira College in New York before returning home to Switzerland where he has played professionally for the past six seasons, five with HC Davos in the top Switzerland Pro League.
On Tuesday, Aeschlimann made his first appearance at the Worlds, providing the team with two periods of shutout hockey to help them build a 2-0 lead against Kazakhstan.
The Kazaks struck for a pair in the third, including one to get within a goal with just over two minutes to play, but Aeschlimann shut the door from there, boosting the team to its third straight win a the tournament behind played in both Tampere and Helsinki, Finland.
The team was back on the ice Wednesday and boosted its record to 4-0 with a 5-2 win against Slovakia.


The 16 nations playing at the Worlds are divided into two eight-team pools. The Swiss currently lead Pool A with its 4-0-0 record while Canada is right behind at 3-0-0. Both have all but guaranteed in the tournament’s Quarter-Finals next week.
Reto Berra, a veteran goaltender from Bulach, Switzerland with several seasons of both Swiss Pro and AHL experience, played in both the first game against Italy and fourth game, against Slovakia for Switzerland and Leonardo Genoni, another vet, from Semlone, Switzerland appeared in game two, a 6-0 shutout against Denmark.
The Swiss has three round-robin matches remaining, taking on Canada Saturday, France on Sunday and arch rival Germany on May 24. If Switzerland sticks with his current goaltending rotation, Aeschlimann will likely hit the blue paint against France.
While the Swiss team has some vets in goal, Nico Hischier from the New Jersey Devils, the country’s only ever first overall NHL draft pick is on the roster along with Pius Suter of the Detroit Red Wings, Timo Meier of the San Jose Sharks and Jonas Sigenthaler, also from the Devils.

Amery’s Atkins looking to help Ducks take next step

By Jim den Hollander
Editor/Publisher
Saukhockey.info
Once again, the Dells Ducks has plucked a quality player from the roster of a quality Wisconsin-based high school in the off season.
Reece Atkins, a 5’11, 175-pound right-shooting forward collected 10 goals and 31 points for the Amery Warriors in the competitive Middle Border Conference this past season.

He also played a key role for the Warriors in the post season, scoring in each of his team’s three-game run and adding an assist as well. That stands out as a high point in his career so far.
“This is the first time in program history a team (from Amery) has made it that far,” said Atkins on a team questionnaire adding his team earned the Sectional spot with a thrilling overtime win against rival New Richmond Tigers in the Regional championship match.
Atkins enjoyed a breakthrough season in Amery, more than doubling his 13-point total from his junior season.
After impressing the staff, including incoming Head Coach Anthony Rohde at a prospects/player’s camp held in Lake Delton in March, Atkins recently confirmed his intention to help the Dells Ducks as the first signee of the off season.
Coach Rohde had this to say about Reece, when asked his thoughts about his new player: “It’s not often you find someone with his size, ability to see the ice, and hands, all in one. I was very impressed to see his ability to create something in tight areas, it can be game changing.”
While Coach Rohde was impressed with what he saw from Atkins in his visit to the Lake Delton Ice Arena back in March, the coach and team owner Shaun Falzone also made an impression on the ‘03 forward as he counted them as his primary reason for selecting the Dells Ducks on the form.
Atkins is looking forward to making his presence felt as a rookie and feels his ability to set the tone in a game could be valuable. He counts among his strengths “My ability to slow down the game and pick up the pace whenever I want. My ability to find open guys, create space for myself and others and make the right play.”
Jackson Henningsgaard, another player who wrapped up a solid run as a junior player himself this past season has been an influence on Atkins who says he loves to play, especially with the game on the line.
“I enjoy playing on the powerplay. I also enjoy playing when it matters most, whether it’s overtime, when we need a goal or when we need to be defensive and prevent a goal.”
Looking ahead to a first season with the Ducks, Atkins is looking forward to helping the team on a quest to getting north of the .500 mark for the first time in five seasons and he wants to be a regular contributor on the score sheet, but he also knows the step from varsity to junior is a large one.
“For me, coming from high school, the pace and intensity of the game will be the biggest factor,” predicted the forward.
He is looking forward to the billet experience and spending a season in Wisconsin Dells, a community he has visited before. Currently located a stone’s throw from the Minnesota border, it’s no surprise the Wild his favorite hockey team, but he counts Patrick Kane, Patrice Bergeron and Connor McDavid as players he admires and tries to emulate.
A three-sport athlete, Atkins also enjoys football and baseball and he says Chicken Alfredo is a favorite pre-game and/or post-game meal.