By Jim den Hollander
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.
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.
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.