By Jim den Hollander
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.