The Dells Ducks made a quick exit from the USPHL postseason but a look back on the season shows a team moving in the proper direction.
Here’s a quick review of the team’s accomplishments this season and a first look at what is in store for the team when they return in the fall.
The team’s overall record, 12-29-2-1, doesn’t look great at first glance, but here are a few reasons why it’s more than promising.
First, compare it to the previous couple seasons — The Ducks finished at 3-38-2 in 2020-21 with a young squad but managed one more win the following season, finishing at 4-39-1. The nine points collected was also one more than the previous season.
Statistically, the team showed some progress, scoring 94 goals as opposed to 65 the previous year. On average, the improvement went from 1.51 goals per game to 2.13. Defensively, the team struggled in the COVID season, allowing 356 goals in 43 regular season games for an average of 8.28 pefore r game and improved slightly with 333 goals against the following season for an average of 7.57.
Those are dismal stats but looking there shows how dramatic the team’s improvement was in 2022-23.
Ducks scored 116 goals this past season, an average of 2.64 per game and flirted with allowing less than 200, before finishing with 217 against, a still high, but much improved average of 4.93 per game.
Despite a drop of more than 100 goals against, there were still some big losses that inflated the overall number. The Ducks allowed eight or more goals in six games and teams put up a double-digit total on the locals twice and the Havoc did it once more in the post season.
Offensively, the team saved its best for last, scoring 10 in its final regular season game, the fifth time the local crew put up a total of five or higher. Ironically two of those games were losses.
The team appears headed in the right direction but it will be interesting to see if they can take another big step forward as many of the team’s top players from this season will be moving on to college next year, having aged out at the end of the 22-23 season. The team’s top.
Head Coach/GM Anthony Rohde and his assistant, Mario Lachica deserve much of the credit as they were tireless in first getting the players, then getting them on the same page.
The 27 points collected in standings this season was just shy of three times better than the nine collected the previous season. What makes that number standout more is the fact the team lost its first 14 games and had just one overtime point to show for it.
But a 2-1 win against the visiting Minnesota Blue Ox on Nov. 5 served as a turning point for the Ducks who clearly enjoyed winning, taking W’s in two of its next three as well.
From that point on, the team put together a record of 9-16-1-1, under .500 but certainly moving in the right direction.
Last season the Ducks collected no wins after returning from the Christmas Break, dropping all 12 in the crucial homestretch. This time the team went 4-9 to protect the final playoff spot. That stretch, when Showcase excursions are done and you’re facing a division rival in every match is perhaps the most crucial part of the season.
Local youth players and parents are familiar with Rohde’s style as he has worked with many of the local players. What is evident are his unique drills that improve the speed, footwork and stickhandling of almost everyone that works with him, but what many are not aware of is the time Rohde and Lachica put in watching film of their own games and their opponents’ games. They are always aware of what specifically needs to be improved and its not uncommon for the tinkering to begin during an intermission of the same game.
The coaches have already moved on to the 2023-24 campaign even while the top teams are still finishing this season.
Aging out forwards like the team’s leading scorer, Ethan Matthews, Adam Brown and captain Bryce Jacobsen were given a chance to play at a higher level down the stretch with trades to upper echelon teams. Jacobsen (Minnesota Moose) and Matthews (Richmond Generals) will both get a chance to finish their season in style at the League’s National Championship tournament in Utica, N.Y. next week.
But without those players, the team should have seen a noticeable sag in performance. Instead, the rest of the guys stepped up, putting up a team high 10 goals in its regular season finale. Rohde said those final games were effectively auditions for players looking to return to the Ducks next season.
“They took advantage of that opportunity to step up,” said Rohde adding the players are looking to impress every time on the ice.
“Every shift is a tryout for the next one,” summed up the coach in a telephone interview.
Rohde said players from Wisconsin/Illinois along with some others staying in the Midwest through the off season will get a chance to take part in some five-on-five skates, starting soon at the Lake Delton Ice Arena and continuing over the summer months in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas.
The coach estimated half of the non-aging out players could be hoping to return next season and he has been looking for players that could come in and make the team better since before the regular season ended.
The team has shown a marked improvement in nearly every area but the bar will be set higher for the 2023-24 season. Rohde and Lachica wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Sauk Prairie Peewee ‘A’ Flyers were selected as the top seed for the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association (WAHA) 3A Peewee State Championship tournament in Ashland, WI this past weekend and went to work making that to be correct.
After moving to the winning side of the draw with a 10-0 shutout against Marshfield peewees Saturday morning, the team returned to the ice a few hours later and earned its spot in the championship game with a 9-5 edge against Black River Falls.
In the championship game Sunday afternoon, the Flyers doubled the Tomahawk Hatchets 6-3 to claim the championship plaque and banner.
The peewees set the table for its state championship with a 29-10-2 record including a 6-2 win against the RWD Peewee Cheavers in their Regional test Feb. 5 to officially qualify for the state event.
Following that, the locals dropped its next three before rebounding from an 8-2 loss against Onalaska with an 8-0 win against the same team on the same day. The Flyers rolled from there with a 6-2-1 run to wrap up the season. Clearly the team was firing on all cylinders heading to Ashland.
“We really felt good about how we were playing last weekend heading into the tournament,” said Coach Dave Jolicoeur in an email interview. “The kids were loose and having fun. We were in a really good spot.”
Flyers 10 Blades 0
The Flyers opened tournament play with a 10-0 win against the Marshfield peewee Blades, a team they had not faced this season.
The game was all but over by the time the first period buzzer sounded as the Flyers pounded the Blades’ goal with eighth unanswered tallies. Single goals in the second and third wrapped it up.
Leading the scoring parade was hat tricks for both Michael Joliceour and Natalee Gesicki. Brayton Bahe chipped in a goal and three assists, Braden Schlough and Davis Lombard both adding a goal and assist. The other goal came from Reid Knoll and Kirk Alexander had a pair of set ups.
The opening round of games eliminated half the field from a shot at the state title and moved the Flyers along with Black River Falls, Somerset and Tomahawk to the Championship semis.
While the team had not faced Marshfield before, Jolicoeur said he and his players were confident heading into the contest.
“We didn’t have any butterflies going into that game. For the core of the 2010’s on this team, it was their third trip to State so they knew what it was all about.
“We also got a look at Marshfield at the Altoona tournament (Jan. 28-29), so even though we hadn’t played the, we got to see them in action before the State Tournament. Coming out strong against them and scoring so early n the first period let us know our kids were ready to make a run at this thing.”
Flyers 9 Tigers 5
Saturday night against the Black River Falls Tigers, the Flyers were a facing a team it defeated 7-5 and 12-6 in exhibition games at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) on Dec. 3, then 9-5 and 5-3 in Black River Falls Jan. 15.
Once again the team found its offense early, grabbing a 3-0 first period lead. Both teams added a pair in the middle frame and the Flyers outlasted the Tigers in a wild third period with a 4-3 edge to make the 9-5 final.
Logan Harrington set the pace in this one scoring two and adding three helpers for the Flyers. Jolicoeur and Bahe both scored two more, Bahe adding an assist. Kirk, Lombard and Knoll had the other goals with assists for Haakon Hoeltke, Schlough and Gesicki.
Jolicoeur said despite the success againt BRF in earlier matches, the team wasn’t overconfident heading into the game it needed to win to reach the state championship match.
“We were feeling good, but two of our four previous games against Black River Falls were two-goal games with the last of those including an empty netter,” said Jolicoeur. “It’s tough to beat a good team like that five times in a season. They’ve got some talented skaters, especially Brooke Lakowske. She’s tough, if not impossible to contain.”
That win put the Flyers three periods away from a state championship game, going up against the Tomahawk Hatchets, also 2-0 with an 8-2 win against Beaver Dam and a 6-3 doubling of Somerset.
The Flyers previously played the Hatchets at a tournament in Waupaca Jan. 7-8 collecting 8-3 and 8-1 wins.
Flyers 6 Hatchets 3
Tomahawks flipped the script a bit on the Flyers scoring the first pair and carrying a 2-0 cushion to the middle period. Teams were even at 2-2 heading to the third and a 4-1 margin through the final period put it away for the Flyers.
Jolicoeur said the Tomahawk team has bolstered with the addition of defenseman Jake Albert, a member of the 2010 Team Wisconsin team who is double rostered and played with the bantam squad through most of the season.
“He played with the Tomahawk bantam team that won state (the previous weekend,” said the coach. “We knew he’d be a challenge and he factored in an all three of their goals.
“We came out nervous and tight for the championship game and found ourselves down 2-0 after a period. We just told the kids to loosen up and get back to playing hockey. They were scoring nine goals a game (average) coming into the championship game and we knew the goals were going to come.
“By the end of the second period we tied it and never trailed again.”
Bahe scored the goal that would stand up as the state championship winner 8:19 into the period, his second of the contest and Jolicoeur scored his first of a pair seconds later to put his team in cruise control.
“Going up 4-3 and then scoring our fifth 16 seconds later probably took a bit of wind out of their sails,” said Jolicoeur. “Then, about two minues later, we got the sixth which pretty much put a comeback out of reach.”
Kirk and Harrington scored the other goals, Schlough setting up a pair and other assists for Kirk, Jolicoeur, Gesicki and Knoll.
In goal, Benjamin Freeman put in the work, kicking out 26 of 29 shots and picking up the win in all three games.
Coach Jolicoeur is of course pleased with the efforts of his team throughout the season and said as early as the beginning of the season the team was destined for greatness.
“We knew going in that it could be a special year,” said the Coach. Two years ago, the core of this team went into the 2021 State Tournament looking pretty good. We then lost a heartbreaker first game to Somerset 5-4. That was a game we had in hand until we had some emotional and mental breakdowns that began a parade to the penalty box.
“Give credit to the kids though. They learned from that experience and even being down 2-0 after the first to Tomahawk, they stayed positive and didn’t have those types of breakdowns. They were able to channelize that energy, stay mentally tough and go out and battle their way back into the game.
“That growth and maturity for this team was really a neat thing to experience and a great life lesson for these kids.”
After celebrating at the rink, the Flyers players and families paid a price, with what Coach Jolicoeur called “A white-knuckle driving experience,” returning home through a snowstorm. Plans for a team celebration are currently in the works.
“Winning a State Championship is a special and rare occasion, so we want to make sure we acknowledge it.”
Congrats from Saukhockey.info to all team players, Coach Dave Jolicoeur, Assistant Coaches Michael Freeman, Jeffrey Harrington and Brian Schlough and Team Manager Ryan Kirk.
The RWD Cheavers officially wrapped up the 2022-23 campaign Saturday night with its banquet/awards event at Bobber’s in Lake Delton.
Among the announcements at the event was the return of the entire coaching staff – Head Coach Neil Mattson, Assistant Coaches Mike Welch and Jeramy Greenwood, Goaltending Coach Rick Allison and junior varsity co/coaches Joe Uminski and Cade Mattson.
One change though will be Greenwood doing some double duty in the upcoming season as a counsellor, available for players who may be experiencing mental or emotional challenges. This change was deemed necessary by the coaches with some recent events and the recent local, national and international attention given to mental health issues in athletes.
“We’re hopeful this can be helpful for the young guys,” said Mattson.
After dinner, Mattson addressed the players and parents, setting goals (15-9 regular season record) for 2023-24 and praising the players for their respective roles this past season with special attention for the seniors.
It’s fitting the seniors garnered the attention as Mattson routinely relies on and leans heavily on the fourth-year skaters and they always deliver for him.
The Cheavers played through an interesting season, finishing the regular season at 14-10 and moving on to a 1-1 post season, ended by state tournament bound Verona Wildcats who feasted on the Badger West Conference with wins against the Cheavers, Sauk Prairie Eagles and Madison Edgewood Crusaders en-route to the state tourney.
Mattson pointed at the nine losses by a single goal as evidence things could have been much different with a few bounces.
Mattson said the senior players posted an overall record of 57-40-1 during their time with the Cheavers.
Honored first were the six team managers including senior Kaitlin Elder who stepped in this season as the team videographer and another pair of seniors, Stella Scott and Olga Hernandez who wrapped up a four-year run with the team. Other managers, Autumn Gillman, Megan Franz and Lydia Eastman were named and all six were presented with a gift from the coaches.
From there, Mattson highlighted the performance of the team’s nine seniors including in order of jersey number:
John Scott – Scott relished the senior role collecting 19 goals and 34 points, nearly double the 19 points from his junior year. Over his four-year varsity career (including playoffs) Scott collected 64 points for the Cheavers and his aggressive physical play worked well.
Mattson said Scott “played with passion…for the love of the game. He played for all the right reasons.”
Lukas Vana – Vana, a foreign exchange student from Czech Republic immediately improved the team on defense, making his presence felt on offense as will with five goals and 23 points on the season. Vana also fit in well off the ice said Mattson.
“He was one of the funniest guys in the locker room,” recalled the coach.
Caden Brandt – Simply put, Brandt is one of the greatest players to represent the Blue and White jersey and the Brandt brothers will be tough to replace. A class act both on and off the ice, Brandt overcame an early season injury scare to wrap up his third 20-goal campaign with 37 regular season points.
Over his career, Brandt put up 86 goals, second most in team history. He was an obvious First Team All-Badger Conference selection and moves on with a 142-point total. The best part of his stats could be the penalty minutes total – 24 minutes in 87 regular season contests.
Carsen Brandt – The defender gave an indication of his mental toughness came in his junior year when Brandt shrugged off a shoulder injury, putting off surgery until after the season.
He returned 100 percent healthy for his senior year and was a leader on the blueline, called on in every situation. Like his brother, Brandt played clean, sitting just 32 minutes through 83 games and that was important as both were relied on heavily in penalty kill situations.
Also, a First Team All-Badger Conference member and a leader by example, Mattson summed up the thoughts of everyone in attendance saying, “Thank you for all you have done for this program.”
Yevgeny Dedun – Dedun “Had a wonderful senior season,” said Mattson of the hard-nosed forward whose contributions don’t always show up on a score sheet. Dedun’s physical style punished opposition players and like the Brandt brothers he did it while avoiding infractions. Dedun was charged with just give minor penalties in the 22 games played this season despite being a physical player.
Caleb Eastman – Like Dedun, Eastman was an energy player who made the varsity lineup in his senior season through hard work and a great mental attitude. “He never complained,” said Mattson classifying the rugged winger as “one of the greatest role players you could ask for.” His hard work paid off as Eastman collected his first varsity goal.
Logan DeMars – Another anchor on the blueline, along with Brandt and Vana, DeMars chipped in on defensive unit that later shared a team award. Mattson said DeMars helped produce a “solid foundation on the blue line,” limiting opposition chances or making them fire the puck from well outside the scoring zone. DeMars has been counted on heavily by the varsity team, playing all 24 regular season games in both his junior and senior seasons and suiting up in a four-year total of 89 games.
Nate Stando – Perhaps the biggest improvement among the seniors came from Stando who used his size and reach to become a regular for the Cheavers. Mattson described his three-goal, 10-point season as a “breakout season,” adding his ability to find chemistry with whoever he was on the ice with as a plus.
“He bounced around from line to line,” early in the season said Mattson adding he fit in well with whoever he was on the ice with.
“He never worried about minutes, he just wanted to be a part of it.”
Conner Putz – Hard work and a positive attitude helped Putz get into the varsity lineup for a half dozen games in his senior season and he was also on the roster for the post season, a great reward for a player who did whatever was asked of him.
“He shows up every game with a positive attitude and a smile on his face,” said Mattson.
The Coaches wrapped up the night with the presentation of several team awards for both the junior varsity and varsity teams.
First, the JV squad honored a trio of players, Tristan Edgerton collecting Offensive Player of the Year honors and Nolan Pope earning Defensive Player of the Year while rugged defender Carter Renneberg received the ‘Mr. Hustle’ Award.
Coaches honored the entire defense corps, including of course, sophomore goaltender Alex Griebe for an awesome effort this past season.
With a penalty killing success rate of 84% among some other great statistics, Mattson said the defense corps “was one of the most solid groups we’ve had,” as a squad.
Also honored were the six team members that shared the role of team captain for 2022-23 including seniors John Scott, Caden Brandt, Carsen Brandt, Yevgeny Dedun and Logan Demars along with junior Brady Baldwin. Mattson also announced Baldwin will return as a captain in the fall along with incoming senior defender Iszak Elder.
Caden Brandt and John Scott became a two-headed scoring monster for the Cheavers this season and it was fitting they shared the Offensive Player of the Year Award and Nate Stando was rewarded for his breakout campaign as an easy selection for Most Improved Player.
Caden Brandt returned to pick up the ‘Triple D’ (Dedication/Desire/Discipline) Award and the Hobey Baker Character Award was handed to Caleb Eastman celebrating his attitude.
Each Coach presented a Coaches Legacy Award beginning with Coach Allison who honored Putz with his Award.
Coach Welch described Carsen Brandt as “Coachable, Respectful with a desire to Improve, all while keeping a minimum 3.0 Grade Point Average for his Award.
Coach Greenwood gave his honor to junior Brendan Bychinski who he described as “Dedicated and Put the team first.
Mattson gave his Legacy honor to Nate Stando, who he described as “Coachable” and a Character player with a willingness to Learn.”
Also honored with Certificates, pins and in some cases, varsity letters in order were” Geo Rivas; Kaden Uminski; Nolan Pope; Tristan Edgerton; Trey Lariden; RJ Manley; Gus DeFosse; Mark Othmer; Carter Renneberg; Andrey Tougas; Kadin Bergenske; Jaxon Hess; Iszak Elder; Tye Barney; Bryan Mammos; Alec Breunig; Jonny Mata; Bryton Clark; Brendan Bychinski; and Alex Griebe.
Wrapping up the evening, the players took over the role of presenters, honoring their coaches along with announcer Brad Droste and the team’s public relations standout Jennifer Baldwin.
With many players moving on already to spring sports, Mattson said the team will once again welcome the incoming freshmen and begin the bonding experience with some off-season events, beginning with a grueling four-mile run and cookout June 12 and continue it with summer hockey and other bonding activities, all leading up to the start of a new season in November.
Coach Rick Capener congratulated and said an emotional so long to six inspiring seniors at the Badger Lightning varsity and junior varsity banquet at Monk’s at the Wilderness Thursday (March 9) night.
The half dozen players played crucial roles on the squad dating back to their freshman season and in particular the 2020-21 season as they made up the core of a team that included just two lines, trying to stay 100 percent healthy during the COVID epidemic.
The presentation of senior honors and the team’s Specialty Awards was a highlight on the final meeting of players and parents for the 2022-23 season.
The group, including his youngest daughter, Kayla Capener, now the all-time leading scorer for the Lightning, clearly held a special place for Coach Capener.
“Some of these girls I have been in contact with for 10 years,” said the Coach before presenting senior honors. Capener coached them in youth hockey for several years before they started at their respective high schools.
Capener said the girls were used to winning, attending four state championship tournaments and always performing well.
“There was a lot of hockey, a lot of travel with this group.”
After dinner at Monk’s Capener addressed the team and parents, mentioning each varsity player individually and thanking everyone that helped make the season run smoothly.
Ending the evening was the presentation of six ‘Specialty’ trophies/plaques.
The first presentation was the Sportsmanship Award presented to first year Paige Othmer who made a massive impression on the blue line in her rookie varsity season.
Othmer is not shy about being physical on the ice, but clearly plays clean, Capener pointing out she was the only varsity player to go penalty-free this season.
“She is always smiling,” said the Coach adding Othmer clearly loves the game adding on a couple occasions she apologized for incidental contact to members of the opposition.
Outstanding Defense honors went to Eryn Benson, who has been heavily relied on as a defender since her first days with the team.
A perfectionist when it comes to defense, “Nobody is harder on her than herself,” said Capener when it comes to her play on the ice. Capener described Benson as a “solid blue line player,” and her attention to the defensive side of the game meshed well with some of the younger defenders who like to carry the puck. She was an offensive contributor as well, blessed with a mighty shot from the point.
The Coaches Award was presented to Elizabeth Hagg, another of the promising first-year crop of players.
“This player did everything asked of her this year,” said Capener adding “She wanted a bigger role than she got most of the time but did it with a smile. She listens to everything we say, and she always looks to improve. She asked a lot of questions.”
Capener related a comical story about Hagg who took a rare penalty then returned to the ice and scored her first varsity goal. Capener makes no secret of his quest to eliminate penalties wherever possible so it might not be a surprise when he walked over to congratulate her on the goal she instead apologized for her infraction.
The Hobey Baker Award, presented for Dedication as well as on ice performance went to Mallory Ruland. Another product of the local youth system, Ruland, or more accurately her parents have sacrificed a lot to continue her hockey career as she travels from Elroy every day for practice with the team.
Ruland has been a key player since she started with the team, part of a potent trio (with Kayla Capener and Bella Bowden) during 2020-21 campaign and she has filled whatever position Coach Capener has asked throughout her four-year run.
Coach Capener also announced at the banquet Ruland received all-Badger Conference Honorable Mention recognition.
The Team MVP Award was presented to Kayla Capener who rewrote the team’s scoring record books and was a leader on the ice since her sophomore season.
This season the three-sport athlete scored 19 goals and 48 points to wrap up a four-year career with 58 goals and 150 points in 82 regular season games. Playoff totals add another four goals in five games.
While presenting here the MVP Award, Capener also announced his daughter was a unanimous First Team All-Badger Conference player and Second Team All-State.
The varsity Lightning included a pair of First Year players this year and they made their presence felt immediately on a defense corps that should help the team take another step in its progress next season.
Side by side, they couldn’t be more different, but on the blue line, Paige Othmer, one of the team’s tallest players and Kyran Merrell, the smallest in stature but far from it in talent are both exceptional puck moving defenders that, partnered with the solid goaltending in place, should make the Lightning one of the best defensive teams in the Badger Conference.
Capener said Merrell “was an impact player from the start. She has great hands and is one of the best (and quickest) technical skaters we have seen in some time.”
Merrell contributed two goals and seven helpers and earned her first varsity letter.
Othmer used her size to full advantage keeping the front of the Lightning goal clear of opposition threats and also was a quarterback for the powerplay from her spot on the blue line.
“She skates with the puck with a mission,” said Capener. Othmer collected five goals and nine points in her first season and earned her first varsity letter.
“Both of these players are going to be a force to contend with for the next three years for other teams,” said Capener.
The varsity team included four sophomores and each of them played a key role this past season.
Defender Audrey Hanko was another of the young defenders that make the team’s future look so bright. Capener said quick reactions and a commitment to finishing plays made Hanko look solid on the blue line and an effective poke check brought memories of Carson Blosenski who graduated in 2022.
Hanko collected a goal and three points from her spot on the blue line and received her second varsity letter at the banquet.
Ryleigh Bychinski opted to stay in youth hockey for an extra season and became a fixture as a forward with the Lightning this past season.
In order to find the right fit and chemistry for others, Bychinski was moved around a bit through her first varsity season and Capener said she “handled it well,” describing here as an aggressive, physical player with good speed and a solid 200-foot game, Bychinski picked up three regular season goals and eight points.
Bychinski collected her first varsity letter.
Returning forward Kayla Garbacz had a successful season and like Bychinski she had different linemates over the season.
“Another player we moved around a little, looking for the right fit and handled it well,” said Capener who praised her for her ability to find open areas with and without the puck and remembered a big assist she collected in a big game against Onalaska.
Overall, Garbacz who is also a gifted runner, collected three goals and seven points and collected her second varsity letter.
Reese Olson has been a key player for the Lightning since the first time she put the jersey on. Her aggressive style made her a perfect fit on the first line in her freshman season “and she earned that agan this year,” said Capener.
The downside to the aggressive style of play is an occasional infraction, but Olson countered that as an exceptional penalty killer, turning the time playing short as a positive.
“When she forechecks, her goal is trying to give us an opportunity to score a ‘shorty,’” said Coach Capener.
Olson scored 10 goals and collected 26 points this season, receiving her second varsity letter along with a captain’s pin and a hat trick medal.
The primary job of replacing the six departing seniors will fall to this group of four juniors who will lead the way next season.
First up, Katelyn Allen, described by Capener as “just a workhorse and grinder,” will make the team’s aggressive style live on.
“She thrives on breaking up and disrupting the flow for the other team,” said Capener who also gave her credit for doubling as a defender for the junior varsity squad, commenting that experience will make her more valuable as she could play forward or defense on the team depending on situations in 2023-24.
Allen scored a pair and set up another and was presented with her second varsity letter.
Another player Capener said will be relied on next season is third year forward Madchen Ewig.
Also known as a ‘grinder’ for her tireless play, Capener said she does anything asked on the ice, including a key game in Viroqua where she returned to the crease for the first time in hseveral seasons.
“She played huge in net against Viroqua. There was lots of pressure in the game, and she handled it great.”
Known primarily as a shutdown player against some tough opponents, Ewig picked up an assist along the way and received her third varsity letter.
Karson Nicksic was a mid-season addition as a forward but made a big impression quickly.
Described by the coach as a “fast, strong forward with good hockey sense. I am looking forward to a full season with her next year.”
Nicksic hit the mesh twice and set up a pair, collecting her first varsity letter.
One of the greatest weapons the Lightning has moving forward is the stellar play between the pipes from junior Alyssa Gada.
The team doesn’t have a goalie coach but Gada’s attention to detail has made her one of the best around.
“She is very thorough,” said the Coach., “She replays every goal in her head so she can correct what happened.” She went to the cage for 1,100 minutes (about 18 and a half hours), making her one of the most overworked goaltenders in the state. She faced 586 shots and allowed less than three goals (2.80) per game witha save percentage of .910 that rose to .916 in key conference battles.
Her five shutouts give her seven in her career, second most all time for the Lightning and within reach of the 11 posted by Jamie Dutton. She earned her third varsity letter and with what should be a solid group of defenders she will make it difficult for opposition forwards next season.
Capener gave special notice to his seniors as he always does. This group faced leadership challenges earlier than most, playing big roles on an understaffed team. They leave the club much better than it was when they arrived.
Among the graduating six was Lily McPherson, a defender who gained a ton of confidence in herself and her ability over the past four seasons.
The coach recalled a time a few years prior when McPherson contemplated leaving the sport.
“We had a long talk about it, and I gave her time and distance to think about it,” said Capener. “Fast forward and here we are. I, the staff and the team are glad she continued with us.”
The coach said McPherson stuck out as “a protector of our goalie,” adding she was always a positive influence in the locker room as well.
McPherson collected a goal and assist this season, five goals and 17 points over her career and never sat more than 10-minutes in penalties in a season. She was presented with a fourth varsity letter.
Another of the aggressive forwards was Lani Selje who developed from a first time skater to an accomplished forward during her time with Capener.
“I remember when she started (the game). Her parents were happy if she just practiced and didn’t play in the games. So, every game she would come with her helmet and sit on the bench. One day, she showed up and I asked where her gear was. I never seen anyone so excited, until her parents showed up that is,” Capener said adding they took a lot of pictures that day.
“Lani was always the team protector, a role I think she liked” said Coach Capener. “A physical style player who over her high school career developed a nasty hard shot.
Selje scored three goals this season and eight over her varsity career which wrapped up with 18 points and she also collected her fourth varsity letter.
Even as a first-year player Eryn Benson was noted as a great stay at home defender with a threatening shot in the offensive zone.
This season, Capener said he picked her as a team captain because “Everyone was comfortable talking with her. Always mild mannered and smiling, her plan was always solid and consistent.”
While noted primarily for her defensive expertise, Benson was valuable on the powerplay as she not only held the puck in at the line, but her hard shot created offensive opportunities.
Benson scored a pair of goals this season, giving her nine in her career and 33 points.
When it comes to the excitement a hard nosed physical player blessed with overwhelming breakaway speed can bring to a team, step up Bella Bowden.
“Bella’s most consistent strength was her speed and determination,” said coach Capener. “She reminds me of those cross-country runners you see that just keep running until they drop over. She is the only player I’ve coached that approached hockey the same way.
“As the season went on, she got better about letting us know she needed a break.”
In motorcycle racing and some other sports, the winner or fastest racer from the previous season wears number one so it was fitting that she sported that number, usually identified with goaltenders, for the Lightning.
Her five goals and nine points this season gave her a career total of 31 goals and 45 points.
Before picking up Hobey Baker honors, Mallory Ruland got the the call as a senior from coach Capener.
“All four years, Mallory has been that whatever you need me to do player. That is what made her a captain this year. She also made skating and stickhandling through traffic look effortless,” who excelled as a penalty killer.
Ruland notched 15 goals and 31 points, easily her best offensive season as she played 78 career regular season games, scoring 33 goals and collecting 62 points.
Finally, Capener honored Kayla Capener, before presenting her later as the obvious MVP winner.
“Kayla has been a leader on the ice for several years,” said the coach. “Her ability to fina the open lane for a pass is special. Seeing the game a few steps ahead doesn’t hurt either. She was a captain this year. Coach Blosenski said last year when Kayla is on the ice, she controls the flow of the game and for obvious reasons, I’m going to miss her on the ice next year.”
Before going through the honors and awards, Capener gave a rundown on the team’s performance this past season and announced a few interesting additions for the future. Also Coach Josh Cone presented certificates to the members of the junior varsity squad.
Listed below are some key points.
— The 26 players on the roster this season is the highest number in 15 years. Not bad for a team that had just two lines two seasons prior. As a result of the additions, the lock room was updated with salls added and Capener thanked the Baraboo School District for helping out the purchase of new jerseys for the players at a cost of $17,000.
— Coach Capener said new schedules for varsity and junior varsity teams should be released next month.
— A couple of interesting changes through the off season that should help players stay sharp is shared ice time with the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers, liking beginning in July in Beaver Dam. Capener said the format will likely see teams engaging in separate drills then coming together to scrimmage.
— The team will engage in some team building exercises with a ‘dry course,’ and ‘wet course’ at some point over the off season and said plans are in place for a Jet Boat ride at some point to begin the chemistry/bonding experience for the 2023-24 team.
They entered the 2022-23 season with three goals and achieved two of them, coming within a whisker of the third.
First, the team wanted to finish the season at or better than .500 and reached it with an overall 12-12 performance, the best record since the 2010-11 season.
The missed goal was hosting a playoff game and that is the lone setback for an otherwise amazing season. It will eat at some of the players, primarily seniors. “We know we had it in us,” said the coach.
Winning a playoff game was the final goal and the team accomplished that with the first playoff victory since 2011 in Sun Prairie a few weeks ago. Capener said the team came together for the biggest game in recent history and may have been encouraged by some unfortunate comments by the opposition coach that reached the locker room wall.
In 2017-18, the Lightning posted a 0-18 record with a total of 22 goals. They have improved each season and scored 80 goals in 2022-23.
The team is saying goodbye to some of the best players in team history, but a large contingent (Likely a similar number of players this fall) of young players eager to leave their mark on the program will continue the team’s rise in the years to come.