By Jim den Hollander
Ready or not, here we go!
The 2022-23 WIAA varsity season is already underway for one of the four Sauk County teams and the other three will all dive in on Tuesday.
The lone home game will see the RWD Cheavers kick off the 2022-23 campaign against perhaps its biggest non-conference rival, the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders.
For many, the rivalry goes back to youth campaigns. A larger community, Wisconsin Rapids is always a tough test for the RWD Cheavers, Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds or Sauk Prairie Flyers.
At one time, the Red Raiders were in the same Sectional pool as the three locals and often, the favorite to move on to the state tournament. However, in recent seasons, the geography has changed a few times. Also, while in the past, teams aspired to play at the level of the Raiders, they are more of an equal competitor now.
Almost always an opponent in the first few games of the season, the Rapids’ crew is always a valuable ‘W’ or a tough ‘L’ out of the gate.
The varsity teams will meet Tuesday at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) with a 7 p.m. opening faceoff.
The Sauk Prairie Eagles and Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds will both open their respective seasons on the road Tuesday.
The Eagle will make the trip to the Omni in Onalaska to face the Avalanche in their season opener. Last season the Eagles collected a 9-4 win against the Avs in their final test before Christmas. They meet up generally once a season and in the past eight meetings, the Eagles have wins in seven.
Included on the Avalanche staff this season is assistant coach Ben Horziewski, formerly a player with RWD. In prevoius seasons former RWD goaltender Mike Olson has also served as a coach.
The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds will head to Hartmeyer Ice Arena in East Madison Tuesday to take on the Monona Grove Silver Eagles in their own season opener.
The Lightning have played the Eagles in past but not since 2017. The Silver Eagles played their scrimmage matches Thursday at RACA against RWD and DeForest and boasted an impressive and big lineup. The Eagles own a 4-2 edge in its all time series against Baraboo/Portage.
The Thunderbirds will play its first three games this season on the road including its Badger West Conference opener against the defending champion Madison Edgewood Crusaders Nov. 28. First home game for the T-Birds will be Nov. 29 against Tomah/Sparta.