Capener, Ruland lead Lightning into second half

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team returned from Christmas Break looking to snap the longest skid of its breakthrough 2022-23 WIAA varsity season. 

In five games since the break, the Lightning has righted its season with 23 goals and a 3-2 record.  

After an impressive 4-1 start to the regular season, the Lightning ran into some tough competition and entered the break riding a four-game losing streak. 

In the first game back, sophomore Reese Olson sank the overtime game winner leading the Lightning past independent Northern Edge 4-3 at Pierce Park Pavilion Dec. 28. The following night, the Lightning collected one of its biggest wins ever with a 12-1 win against the Northland Pines Eagles, but the streak was ended with a 5-0 loss on home ice against the Warbirds last Thursday (Jan. 5) followed by a 7-3 loss at the Ponds in Brookfield against the host Brookfield Glacier.  

Lightning broke back into the win column and added another conference win with a 4-2 doubling of the Icebergs Monday, also at Pierce Park Pavilion. 

Against Northern Edge, both teams scored once each period, setting the stage for the overtime heroics. Senior Mallory Ruland played a part in all four goals, scoring two and setting up the other pair. 

Against the Eagles, Lightning held a 47-15 edge on the shot clock, opening a 5-1 first period lead and never looking back. 

The Lightning have had plenty to celebrate so far this season and there is still more to come.
Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer

Junior goaltender Alyssa Gada kept the Lightning in it against the Warbirds despite a massive 52-16 edge on shots. After stopping all 15 shots faced in the opening period, the Warbirds finally wore her down a bit with three goals on 23 middle period chances, adding two more in the third. 

At Brookfield, the host Glacier opened a 3-1 first period lead adding two more in the middle frame before the Lightning played through an even 2-2 third period.

In the most recent game, the Lightning battled back from a 2-0 first period deficit with a pair in the second and two more in the third. 

Senior Kayla Capener notched the game winner and collected three points in the contest on her way to a six goal, 12-point run through the five games. Her next goal will be the 50th of her varsity career and her next point will give her 125. 

Mallory Ruland
Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer
Kayla Capener
Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer

Ruland wrapped up the stretch with three goals and 10 points while Olson also scored three along with four assists. First years Paige Othmer and Ryleigh Bychinski both collected four points, Othmer with three goals and Bychinski three assists and a game winner. 

Sophomore forward Kayla Garbacz notched two goals and an assist, senior defender Eryn Benson adding a goal and two helpers. Senior Bella Bowden and Kyran Merrell both collected a goal and assist and senior Lani Selje also scored once. 

Capener, Bychinski and Olson counted the game winners.

In goal, Gada collected three wins and dropped just one, stopping 104 of 115 shots for a .904 Save Percentage. First year goaltender Claire Scates came on in relief against the Eagles, kicking out both shots faced in the third period and she got the start in Brookfield, making 20 saves. 

The Lightning will look to climb back over the .500 plateau (7-7) Friday (Jan. 13) when the Cap City Cougars visit for a Badger Conference match at 7 p.m.  

The Lightning earned a 2-0 shutout win in the previous meeting in Sun Prairie on Dec. 3.  

The Lightning currently sit fourth in the conference with a 4-3 record. 

Tourney showing vaults Eagles into second half

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

Following an unbeaten showing at the annual Madison area Holiday hockey tournament, the Sauk Prairie Eagles rolled into the second half of the season looking to build on an already successful season.  

A 4-1-1 stretch has the Eagles in the hunt for a top tier playoff seed and a shot at at least a share of the Badger West Conference title. 

The Eagles began play at the holiday tournament with a 7-1 win against the Ashland Oredockers, an independent team that rolled into the event with a 4-2 record on Dec. 28. 

The Eagles outshot the Oredockers 47-18 and after surrendering the game’s first goal in the third minute, responded with seven straight markers.  

The following day, Cedarburg Bulldogs from the North Shore Conference faced off with the Eagles who bounced them by a 9-1 count. The Eagles put this one away turning narrow 2-1 cushion after a period into an 8-1 margin with six unanswered middle period goals. 

Wrapping up the event, the Eagles battled Madision Memorial Spartans to a 2-2 draw. After a scoreless first period, freshman Landon Froese opened the scoring in the second, then added the lone third period tally to pull the Eagles even at 2-2 against the Sparts who rolled into the contest with a 7-2 record and a five-game winning streak. 

Building off that momentum, the Eagles faced off with the Sun Prairie Cardinals dropping a 5-3 decision at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) on Jan. 3. 

Teams were even at 1-1 after a period and 3-3 heading to the final frame before the Cards scored a pair, including a shorthanded empty netter to clinch it with 73 seconds to go. 

On Friday the Eagles returned to Badger Conference play and improved their record to 6-1 with an 8-1 decision at SPARC against the visiting Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds.  

The Eagles led 4-0 after a period and carried a 7-1 cushion into the third. 

Finally, at SPARC Tuesday (Jan. 10) a goal from junior Colin Harrington 20 seconds from the final horn lifted the Eagles to their second win against the RWD Cheavers this season and a 7-1 conference record. The goal was the third of the period for the Eagles who rallied all the way back from a 4-2 deficit. 

Leading the offensive charge was senior Luke Mast who racked up 25 points with nine goals and 16 helpers, vaulting him to third in the state with 18 goals and 44 points. He could become the second player in team history to move past the 200 points plateau as he currently sits at 71 goals and 172 points through 72 games played. 

Luke Mast (left) looks for a way past RWD defender Carsen Brandt during their game at SPARC Tuesday night. Mast is on a torrid offensive pace that could be highlighted with him becoming the second player in team history to reach the 200-point plateau. Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer.

Freshman Froese chipped in nine goals and 13 points while Harrington added four goals ande nine points. Junior Karsyn Banta notched a goal and six points and senior Landon Clary scored four and added an assist.  

Freshman Josh Mast scored once and set up three others and junior Thor Peterson fired three goals in the six-game stretch. Other goal scorers included senior Blake Howery and sophomores Gunnar Nachreiner and Connor Grant while junior Garret Mittelsteadt picked up an assist. 

Game winners came off the sticks of Peterson, Harrington, Howery and Froese. 

In goal, Kaden Stracke rolled up a 3-1-1 record with 115 stops on 127 shots, including 40 of 42 in the draw against Madison Memorial. Overall, his Save Percentage for the stretch was .911. Senior Brooks McInerney got some relief work in the tournament and picked up the win against Baraboo, stopping 16 of 17 through five periods’ work for a save percentage of .941. 

The Eagles head back into action Friday (Jan. 13) with its Badger Challenge match against the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers and after a road-heavy opening to the schedule, the Eagles will get the pay off with six of their final eight games on home ice at SPARC. 

Carrying a 12-3-1 record into the home stretch, the key match will be next Thursday when they put their 7-1 conference record on the line against the unbeaten (in conference play) Madison Edgewood Crusaders looking for a share of the conference title. 

Thunderbirds find scoring touch and wins

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

It may or may not have been a Christmas gift, but the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds varsity hockey team returned from the Break having finally found a scoring touch and as a result, a way to break into the win column. 

The Thunderbirds dropped all nine contests before the Break and for good reason, having scored just two goals in that stretch of games. 

In the six games since the Break, Thunderbirds have found the mesh 14 times and as a result, broke into the win column twice.  

First up was a three-game tournament at Stoughton’s Mandt Arena and while the team was able to become involved offensively, it took three tries before the first win arrived.  

After dropping a tough 5-4 decision against the host Stoughton Vikings on Dec. 29, the Thunderbirds met up with the Beloit Memorial Purple Knights and fell 6-2. 

On the final day of the year, Thunderbirds snapped their 11-game season opening skid with a 4-2 decision against the Milton Red Hawks beginning some early New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

Following that, Thunderbirds fell 3-1 to the host Black River Falls Tigers on the road, then fell to 0-6 in Badger West Conference play with an 8-1 loss against the host Sauk Prairie Eagles at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) on Friday. 

Wrapping up a tough stretch of six straight road contests (seven were scheduled but a match at the Omni against the Avalanche was postponed Dec. 22.) the Thunderbirds made the trek to Hartmeyer Arena in Madison and collected a 3-1 edge against the Madison LaFollette/East Lakers, wrapping up a solid and promising 2-4 stretch, all on the road.

Leading the offense through the stretch was junior Peyton Sloan with four goals including the team’s first game winner of the season. Freshman Wyatt Jost chipped in three assists while sophomore Dylann Carpenter and freshman Jordi Beale both scored twice. One of Beale’s goals was also a game winner. 

Junior Landon Olson collected a goal and assist, freshman Nathan Gneiser and sophomore Bodie Thompson both set up a pair. Juniors Luke Schweda and Kyle Buelow both scored a goal with single assists for freshmen Wade Zemanovic and Thomas Sarnow. 

There were no stats available from the game in Stoughton against Beloit Memorial. 

Sophomore goaltender Burke Schweda continued his torrid pace between the pipes as well. In the five games that had statistics available the young goalie kicked out 219 of 237 shots for a dazzling .924 Save Percentage. 

Thunderbirds are scheduled to play on home ice for the first time since Dec. 20 with another Badger West Conference game tonight (Thursday, Jan. 12) against the Oregon Panthers. In their previous meeting in Oregon Dec. 13, the Panthers collected an 8-0 win.