Thunderbirds to open schedule on home ice with Cardinals

By Jim den Hollander 


The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds will enter the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) fray Saturday (Nov. 27) evening with a home game at Pierce Park Pavilion against the Middleton Cardinals. 

Thunderbirds will be entering play as one of six teams in the new Badger West Conference. The Middleton Cardinals from the Big Eight Conference have already played a pair of games, dropping a 4-3 season opening defeat to the Waunakee Warriors at the Ice Pond in Waunakee last Saturday and defeating Monroe Cheesemakers from the Badger West 8-3 at Bob Suter Capitol Ice in Middleton. 

Thunderbirds have played the Cardinals twice in the past, both times in 2015 so it has been a while since they have tangled in regular season action. T-birds split the pair that season with a 5-3 win and loss. 

Out of the gate quick for the Cardinals are three players with four points apiece – Sophomore Vince Kalscheur has four goals and sophomore Brady Engelkes has three goals and assist while senior Ryan Inman has put up a goal and three helpers. 

Game time on Saturday is set for 7 p.m.  

Lightning looks to continue streak against Golden Beavers

By Jim den Hollander 


The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team will open its 2021-22 WIAA varsity season Saturday (Nov. 27) with a pair of games against the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers, both at Pierce Park Pavilion.  

Teams will open play at 10 a.m. and return to the ice for a 2 p.m. start Saturday afternoon.  

The games will be the first of the season for both teams. For the Lightning it kicks off a busy opening week as they hit the road for the first time Thursday (Dec. 2), playing the Rock County Fury in Beloit, then entertains Wisconsin Valley Union on Saturday (Dec. 4). 

The Lightning has dominated the Golden Beavers in recent years, defeating them 10 straight times. In 2020-21, the teams squared off three times, the Lightning cashing in 9-1 and 9-0 wins at Pierce Park Pavilion and 8-1 at Beaver Dam Family Ice Center.  

Junior Kayla Capener came up big with hat tricks in two of the three matches and seven goals overall. Senior defender Carson Blosenski hit the net in all three games, racking up four overall and Signe Begalske chipped in a pair.  

The games will play a part in a busy opening day at Pierce Park Pavilion as the varsity boys hockey team will also play Saturday night against the Middleton Cardinals (see preview story). 

Four-point game for Mast leads Eagles to win

By Jim den Hollander  


The Sauk Prairie Eagles varsity hockey team won its WIAA regular season opening contest with a big offensive night and a 7-5 edge against the visiting Onalaska Hilltoppers at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center Tuesday (Nov. 23) night. 

The Eagles never trailed in the contest, but the season opening contest between a pair of teams that have been among the state’s best in recent seasons featured a Hilltoppers team that refused to surrender until the final buzzer sounded. 

The Eagles took a pair of leads only to have the Hilltoppers respond. A 2-1 lead after a period set the stage for a wild seven-goal middle frame that saw the Eagles finally pull away a bit, carrying a 6-4 margin into the final 17 minutes. 

Senior Erik Peterson opened and closed the scored for the Eagles, scoring the first goal 8:17 into the game and widening the gap to 7-4 with 4:17 to play in the contest. 

But the Hilltoppers responded once again as sophomore Thomas Bryant delayed the celebration with his goal 32 seconds later to get the Hilltoppers within a pair again with 3:45 to play. 

Tempers flared in the final minutes in a game that saw 37 minutes in penalties assessed along with a couple game misconducts. 

Also scoring twice for the Eagles was senior Nick Mast who also collected a pair of assists. Senior Hakon Peterson and junior Luke Mast both scored once and set up two others, freshman Gunnar Nachreiner sinking his first WIAA goal and adding an assist.  

Sophomore Karsyn Banta set up a pair for the Eagles with other assists for senior Micah Hanson and junior Ethan Tranel.  

Along with Bryant’s pair, Hilltoppers got goals from juniors Colin Comeau, Carter Hayes and Gavin Schuster. 

Sophomore Noah Gillette picked up two assists and senior Alec Browning also set up one. 

Junior goaltender Kaden Stracke picked up the win for the Eagles with a 21-save effort and senior Noah Clemment stopped 42 shots for the Hilltoppers.  

The Eagles will enjoy the Thanksgiving break before getting back to work and preparing for five straight Badger West Conference games beginning next Thursday (Dec. 2) at SPARC against the Monroe Cheesemakers.  

The Hilltoppers will be back in Sauk County on Tuesday (Nov. 30) paying a visit to the Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) to play the RWD (Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells) Cheavers. 

Oakes keeps it close for RWD against Rapids

By Jim den Hollander  


It took a while, but the host Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders persistence paid off with a 3-2 win against the RWD (Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells) Cheavers on home ice at the South Wood County Recreation Center on Tuesday night. 

Goaltender Cooper Oakes has played some big games in Rapids, both as a youth player and later as the puck stopper for RWD and this was another one. Oakes kicked out 33 of 36 shots, including all 15 he faced in the opening period. That allowed the Cheavers to carry a 2-0 lead to the locker room at the break despite a 15-7 edge in shots for the Red Raiders.  

Sophomore Brady Baldwin notched the first one for RWD 37 seconds into the contest and Logan Demars scored the other just over two minutes from the buzzer, both on set ups from junior Caden Brandt. 

Sophomore Josh Dekarske finally found a way past Oakes 8:17 into the second and sophomore Carsen Gause evened it up 74 seconds later.  

The Red Raiders went on to outshoot the Cheavers by a 36-15 margin but didn’t capture its first and only lead until Dekarske scored with 6:25 to play. 

Gause picked up assists on both Dekarske goals and other help came from seniors Carson Gunderson and Jacob Dekarske. 

Senior Dakota Blasky stopped everything he faced in the final two periods to pick up a 13-save win in goal. 

The Cheavers will continue a busy opening week, traveling to Somerset to take part in a four-team tournament Friday and Saturday. In the first game, RWD will play the Eau Claire North Huskies Friday at 2:15 p.m. at Somerset Ice Arena. On Saturday, the opposition will be either the Antigo Red Robins or Somerset Spartans. 

The Red Raiders next action will be another home game on Dec. 2 when Wisconsin Valley Conference play gets underway against the Marshfield Tigers. 

JV Eagles open season with shutout win

By Jim den Hollander  


The Sauk Prairie junior varsity Eagles hockey team turned in a solid, near perfect performance to open its regular season with a 5-0 shutout against the visiting Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) on Tuesday night. 

For a second night, despite being shouldered with the loss, Burke Schweda became the story of the contest. After kicking out 37 shots against the RWD JV squad Monday, the goaltender added another 46 saves to his total in a brilliant performance between the pipes. 

Brooks McInerney was flawless in goal for the Eagles, stopping all 12 Thunderbird shots. 

The Eagles had five different goal scorers step up, scoring twice in the first and final periods with one in the middle session. 

Colin Harrington, Karsyn Banta, Gunnar Nachreiner, Blake Howery and Connor Grant scored the Eagles’ goals with assists for Nachreiner and Garret Mittelstaedt. 

The Eagles will get a short break for Thanksgiving and then begin preparations for another home game agianst the Monroe Cheesemakers next Thursday (Dec. 2). 

Next action for the Thunderbirds will be the varsity team’s season and home opener Saturday (Nov. 27) at 7 p.m. against the3 Middleton Cardinals at Pierce Park Pavilion.

JV Cheavers stay hot with win in Rapids

By Jim den Hollander  


The RWD junior varsity hockey team continued a strong opening to its regular season collecting it second win in 24 hours with a 6-2 win against the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders at South Wood County Recreation Center Tuesday evening. 

Tomas Komdofer, Nate Stando and Carter Scully paced the offense, scoring two goals each Scully and Komdofer both adding an assist as well along with Kaden Uminski. 

RWD fired the lone goal of the first period, Komdofer pulling the trigger and the game was still close at 2-1 heading to the third. 

With Alex Griebe, the team’s regular netminder out with illness, defenseman Mark Othmer volunteered to patrol the blue paint and recorded the win in his debut.  

The team will continue play in its busy opening week, following Thanksgiving with a trip to Somerset for a tournament involving both the varsity and junior varsity teams. 

First game for the local JV squad will be against New Richmond Tigers at 4:15 p.m. Friday and they will hit the ice again at 9 a.m. Saturday against the host Somerset Spartans JV squad. 

Schweda’s 37 saves not enough for JV T-Birds against Cheavers

By Jim den Hollander  


A 51-minute season opening junior varsity contest was ultimately decided in the first 28 seconds of the third period at Reedsburg Area Community Arena.  

A stellar effort in goal for Burke Schweda wasn’t enough for the visiting Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds as the host RWD Cheavers turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead with two goals in those opening 28 seconds, adding one more later to wrap up a 5-3 win. 

The game was the season opener for both teams.  

The Cheavers held a 15-5 edge in shots through the opening 17-minute session, but Schweda kicked out 14 of them, beaten just once as senior Malachi Strombolis-Salama scored his first of two in the contest with 4:23 to play in the frame, slamming home the rebound of a shot by sophomore defenseman Mark Othmer. 

The lead lasted just over a minute before senior Zach Huffaker tied it with help from junior Peyton Sloan. 

The 1-1 draw carried into the middle period and the T-Birds moved in front for the first time 2:40 into the frame with a goal from Daniel Yesipovich set up by senior Charlie Gibbs.  

This time it was RWD rallying back quick as sophomore Connor Putz buried one unassisted 87 seconds later.  

Huffaker notched another just 27 seconds after the Putz goal, from junior Landon Olson and that carried into the second period break. 

A fired-up Cheavers’ team came out of the locker room and Strombolis-Salama notched his second just 10 seconds into the frame with assists for senior Carter Scully and junior Nate Stando.  

Scully stayed on the ice and notched the game winner 18 seconds later, with help from Stando and Othmer. 

Stando collected his third point of the period, scoring a clincher near the halfway mark from freshman Caden Uminski and Strombolis-Salama. 

The Cheavers JV squad was playing its first of four games this week as they will open for the varsity squad in Wisconsin Rapids Tuesday and then play twice at a tournament in Somerset Friday and Saturday. 

Thunderbirds will play next on Saturday at Pierce Park Pavilion against the visiting Middleton Cardinals.

Season Preview — Badger Lightning

By Jim den Hollander 


A slow but steady climb in the standings in recent seasons should continue as the Badger Lightning varsity girl’s hockey team moves a step closer toward a full lineup.  

The varsity squad will enter the 2021-22 season will a third line after playing last season with just two and a new pair of young but qualified defenders.  

Coach Rick Capener said in a recent interview (see YouTube video below) he is excited for the possibilities this season as the incoming players give the team, that inexplicably outplayed opponents in the final 17 minutes consistently last season, some depth to make the job a little easier.  

The team’s efforts were clearly noticed as Kayla Capener, then a sophomore was named to the all-State Honorable Mention group last season. She will form a potent pair along with senior Signe Begalske on what will likely be the team’s number one offensive unit. As of last week, the third member of that unit was still to be decided.  

Moving Elroy native Mallory Ruhland off that line should provide depth and consistency. She will be teamed with Lani Selje to create another potent offensive unit. 

Capener is still working on filling the third position on both lines.

With no seniors last season, the team is blessed with a rare 100 percent return this time around, including Begalske, defender Carson Blosenski and forward Emily Gunnel who will all carry leadership roles as the seniors this time around. The team held regular get togethers over the off season and hit the ice as soon as possible in Sauk Prairie, not just to scrimmage, but to work on drills and begin the bonding process, valuable for the incoming players.  

In goal, sophomore Alyssa Gada made a great debut between the pipes last season and Kaitlin Elder has made huge strides at the position as well.  

While the team proved its work in third periods last season, the comeback attempts often were made necessary by dismal starts. The Lightning lost games in the opening period frequently last season and that is an area Capener, and his charges know they must fix. 

The goal this season will be to once again bump up the win total and to provide a tougher challenge to Badger Conference opponents like the Cap City Cougars and Metro Lynx who they simply haven’t been able to compete with in the past.  

The Lightning will get an extra week of preparation as it doesn’t enter the WIAA fray until Saturday (Nov. 27) when it plays host to the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers for a pair of contests at Pierce Park Pavilion.  

Season Preview — Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds

By Jim den Hollander 


The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds head into the 2021-22 WIAA varsity season with a solid group of senior leaders but Head Coach David Clark has had a tough time fielding a full roster in the early days of the season. 

Illness and injury have sidelined some key players at both forward and defensive positions, but Clark is hopeful this adversity will be over quickly. 

With the seniors, the original hope was to be a more competitive team this season, but Coach Clark, a former WIAA State Champion (with Arrowhead) said after a recent practice, his number one concern is to get a healthy group of players on the ice to provide a challenge (see Youtube video below). 

Thunderbirds are coming off an 8-11 season in 2021-21 and looking to improve to .500 and above with a solid group of returners.  

Senior Gabe Fitzwilliams was second on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 24 points in 18 games while Oliver Scanlan, another incoming senior, was close behind with five goals and 20 points.  

Luna Lavin, a rugged, physical defender has been a force since his freshman season, not only as rugged, punishing defener, but as an offensive presence. Last season he collected eight goals and 17 points in 19 games played. 

In goal, senior Andrew Schaetzl played in all but one game and won eight for the Thunderbirds last season. The other game saw Burke Schweda, a sophomore getting the start. Coach Clark said the pair are engaged in a healthy battle for the top spot in practices leading up to the season.  

Thunderbirds lucked out a bit on the schedule with players sidelined. While others will began play as early as this past Friday, the T-Birds will not play its opener until Saturday when it plays host to the Middleton Cardinals at Pierce Park Pavilion. Clark is hoping for a healthier lineup in time for that game. 

First conference match for the local squad will be Dec. 2 when it makes the trip to Oregon for new Badger West Conference rival, Oregon Panthers. 

The first meeting of the Thunderbirds and RWD Cheavers will take place Dec. 7 at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) 

Badger Lightning raises bar for upcoming season

By Jim den Hollander  


The Badger Lightning has improved its win total in each of its previous few seasons and at the end of November, the squad will roll into a new season with as close to a full roster as it has had in a few seasons.  

Girls’ hockey is on the rise in Sauk County, in particular in Sauk Prairie which boasts no fewer than seven teams wearing Sauk Prairie Monkeys uniforms this season, so the light is beaming at the end of the tunnel and if the Captains’ Practice at SPARC on Monday is any indication, the skill level of the incoming freshmen players will have them contributing immediately on both ends of the ice.  

The team has been practicing in Sauk Prairie for a month and at the start of November with the wrap up of some of the other sports, the team will be on the ice more frequently. Regular practices will begin next week and the regular season will open with a weekend series against the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers Nov. 26-27.

At a recent Captains’ practice, members of the Badger Lightning take a minute to catch their breath while discussing the next drill they plan to work on at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC).