Great memories of Ducks, Zaniboni for Vella

By Jim den Hollander  


In the late summer of 2013, a 16-year-old hopeful from Rochester, NY was looking to catch on with the Dells Ducks, a team coming off a solid sophomore season that didn’t end until overtime in the third and deciding game of the MNJHL Division Championship series. 

Chris Vella

With many returners the bar was set high for the team.  

Chris Vella made the roster and waited patiently to get his shot and made the most of it when it finally happened.  

Eight years later, Vella, who will turn 24 in November, turned in four amazing seasons with the Ducks under, forged a longstanding friendship with players and a coach he was so close to he considers them family now. He went from rookie sponge to rugged leader, serving two seasons as team Captain before moving on to four more seasons at Morris State University in New York. 

A couple weeks ago he made his pro debut with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs of the SPHL. After his second game, this past weekend, Vella, one of the most popular Ducks players, took some time to respond to an emailed interview, looking back on his time in the Dells and beyond. 

Vella’s responses are written in full below. Thanks for the memories Vella. — Your career with the Ducks is inspirational and I use it as an example of a player that came in and showed patience and hard work could pay off at the junior level. You went from a healthy scratch in your first few months to a two-time captain and one of the team’s all time leaders on and off the stats sheet. Can you share some of your best memories of your four seasons with the Ducks? 

Chris Vella — I absolutely loved playing for the Ducks, it was a family environment everyday and I have met some of my best friends that I still keep in touch with today. I have even been to two of my teammates weddings! Winning two championships with the ducks is something I will never forget and couldn’t have been possible without having a tight knit group.  

SH — You joined a number of former Ducks teammates at Morrisville State College where you played four more seasons. What was the biggest difference between NCAA Division 3 and Tier 3 junior hockey? Was it made easier having friends in place when you arrived there? 

CV — The biggest difference between Tier 3 junior hockey and NCAA D3 hockey is the physicality and speed of the game. Coach Bill Zaniboni did a great job preparing his players to make the jump to the next level and succeed wherever that may be, not only on the ice but off the ice as well. One thing Coach Bill said that stuck with me throughout my career was “take pride in everything you do”. That helped me on the ice and in the classroom. It definitely was much easier going into a program where I knew a handful of former teammates. A lot of players will move on to organizations not knowing a single person, and I think having that relationship right from day one helped me make a quick adjustment into college.  

SH — What did you major in at Morrisville? Was it difficult after being out of school for a couple years to become a student athlete? What are some of your best memories from Morrisville? Did you fill the same role as both a penalty killing expert and offensive threat while in New York? 

CV — I was an Exercise Science major at Morrisville. In my first semester I struggled after being out of school for a few years, I really had to relearn time management skills to balance school and hockey. One of my favorite memories at Morrisville was sweeping Fredonia the first weekend of my junior year. 2019-2020 was a better year for the program, unfortunately we just missed the playoffs, but we started to find success. I am looking forward to seeing that carry over in the program’s future. I did play a lot on the penalty kill for Morrisville, I didn’t produce a ton offensively, but my numbers did increase during my junior season and was excited to see success in my final year.  

SH — It must have been a little disappointing at least wrapping up your college hockey career with small or no crowds and likely shortened seasons. Was it a stressful situation for you and your teammates or did you try to focus on studies to overcome it? 

CV – Luckily, we were able to finish the 2019-2020 season with no cancellations or restrictions due to Covid. My senior season was cancelled 2 months into the school year, and it was a very difficult time for all the players as well as the coaching staff. We were only able to skate and use the gym in small groups, most classes were online, and it was very difficult for the team to get together socially. 

SH — When did you start to think about taking a run at a pro career? What made you decide on Virginia? Did you approach them or did someone from there talk to you? 

CV — After the season was cancelled, I really had no clue what I was going to do. I went home to Rochester for the second semester and finished classes online as well as complete a Physical Therapy internship. I spent a few months just focusing on school, hopped on the ice once a week, but it wasn’t until about January or February I had a conversation with Coach Bill that I wanted to continue my hockey career and play professionally. Coach Bill helped me a ton this past summer with getting me in contact with coaches as well as giving me advice on how to achieve my goal. I had two former teammates that played for the Rail Yard Dawgs, they said very good things about the organization and told me to reach out to the Head Coach.  

SH — Did it feel any different (nerves-wise I mean) suiting up for your first pro game, opposed to your first college or junior game? What do you expect your role will be as a rookie with the Rail Yard Dawgs? 

CV — I think I felt nervous for all my first games at every level I have played at, especially at the pro level. Not only was it my first pro game, but it was also my first hockey game in about a year and a half. The following week I was able to adapt to the pressure and tell myself not to be nervous and just to play hockey and I felt much better my second game. My role on the team here in Roanoke is very similar to the role I’ve played for past teams. I am a hardworking and simple player. I expect to hit, block shots, and play a ton of minutes on the penalty kill.  

Vella is two games into the 56-game Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) season with the Rail Yard Dawgs. Anyone who has purchased the HockeyTV app to watch junior hockey also should have access to SPHL games this season. 

Hockey Talk Sept. 7 — Happy Birthday Pawlak

By Jim den Hollander


The Labor Day behind them, it’s game on now for the Dells Ducks heading into the USPHL Premier Midwest-West season.

The first two weeks of camp were geared primarily toward conditioning and getting fit for the season. After Labor Day, the team headed into it’s first game week, albeit exhibition contests.

It will be a busy weekend, beginning with two games on Friday, then one each on Saturday and Sunday. That will give the Ducks a taste of competition ahead of their first regular season contests the following weekend against the Rum River Mallards.

It was interesting to see the team in practice on Tuesday with a little more jump in their step, the carrot being the games to be played on the weekend.

Unfortunately, there will be no Hockey TV available for this weekend’s contest. The various Ducks’ facebook pages and this website will be the place to check out for details on all four games.

Happy Birthday – Derek Pawlak

Derek Pawlak played three full seasons with the RWD Cheavers varsity team from the fall of 2016 to the spring of 2019.

Derek Pawlak

Pawlak played 71 games with the Cheavers and scored 70 goals, the highest total amassed by anyone since the RWD team was formed in 2010-11. He also notched 52 assists for a total of 122 points, second best total, behind only the 164 of Dylan Brown.

Pawlak turns 26 today. and the RWD program would like to wish Pawlak a Happy Birthday.

Derek Pawlak

Hockey Talk Sept. 3 — Ducks face bag-skate

By Jim den Hollander


The Dells Ducks will wrap up week two of its pre-season training camp this weekend with some hard work and celebration of Labor Day.

Following a tough ‘bag skate’ on Friday (Sept. 3) there was no yoga/fitness scheduled and players returned to the ice for their normal skills skate Friday afternoon. Several players were planning to once again take in a football game as the local high school team, the Wisconsin Dells High School Chiefs attempt to start the season with a third straight win for the first time in several seasons.

On Saturday, players are scheduled to take part in a four-team full ice three-on-three event. While the primary prize will be “bragging rights,” according to Assistant Coach Mario Lachica, those are high stakes on this close knit and highly competitive squad.

The rest of the weekend schedule is not known as of this writing, but Head Coach Shaun Falzone said earlier it would would be fairly light and he will allow the players a chance to enjoy the holiday weekend before returning to work in the team’s first game week of the season.

The team will prepare for a series of exhibition games to be played in Detroit Sept. 10-12 and that will officially kick off the start of preparation for the USPHL regular season the following weekend.

Happy Birthday – Geno Semeniuk

Geno Semeniuk, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, spent 18 games with the Dells Ducks in the 2018-19 regular season, one of three junior squads he played for between 2017-18 and 2019-20. While with the Ducks, Semeniuk, a smooth skating forward, chipped in four goals and 10 points. and the Dells Ducks would like to wish Geno a Happy 22nd Birthday. Unfortunately, there are no photos available from that season other than this team picture taken after the team’s improbably playoff sweep of the Hudson Havoc. Semeniuk is on the far right of the back row.

Hockey talk Sept. 1 — Ducks start two-a-days

By Jim den Hollander


The Dells Ducks started a new month, taking training camp to a new level with first day of two-a-day on ice sessions at the Lake Delton Ice Arena today (Sept. 1).

The team continues to prepare for its upcoming USPHL season. Today the team was on the ice at 9 a.m.  and again at 3 p.m. This will continue to be the schedule for the rest of training camp with alternating days of off ice fitness and yoga sessions as well as online schooling for several players in the afternoons.

Coach Falzone said in a video interview the team was still aware of some early season ice issues at the Lake Delton Ice Arena adding the intensity level of the practices will increase as the ice allows in the days ahead.

Varsity teams and youth hockey teams from Sauk County and Dane County will fill up the hours of icetime available in the next few weeks. Look at this space for details or visit Poppy Waterman Ice Arena (

Hockey talk Aug. 31 — Best month ever

By Jim den Hollander


The Dells Ducks started the second phase of training camp Tuesday (Aug. 31) with it’s first regular practice.

The team tested the ice and ran a light session the previous night, but ran a full practice Tuesday.  Coach Falzone said the team would continue off ice activities, alternating day to day with yoga and fitness sessions run away from the Lake Delton Ice Arena.

Record breaking month

Thanks in part to a huge boost from, this website has enjoyed its best month ever in terms of views and it’s not even a hockey month.

The story looking back on the Badger North Conference that RWD, Baraboo/Portage and Sauk Prairie all played in, until this season, had almost 800 views as it was carried by Wisconsin’s best varsity website. But daily updates, like this one have seen consistently decent numbers leading to the overall top total that set the new standard set last September.

This is just the start. The plan here is to have blanket coverage on all Sauk County Hockey and hockey players from the county playing elsewhere. Thanks for the support of the hockey fans so far and get ready for a great 2021-22 season.

Jimmy D’s notes — Daily articles ahead of schedule

By Jim den Hollander


In the past week or so there has been a push to make daily items for The play originally was to begin that on Sept. 1 but the timing of the start of the Dells Ducks 2021-22 Training Camp made it a good starting point.

Within the next week or so, the Lake Delton Ice Arena will once again become a busy hub for varsity teams with early captain’s practices and as of right now, some out of town teams are looking to the local arena as a home base for ice which once again is hard to find under restrictions in the state capital.

Lately, inspired by the success of this site, I have been inspired to bring back another website I dabbled with called

Again, the Midwest site started as a hobby, putting in random stories on primarily pro and junior hockey stories from around the Midwest Region. Recently, with my internet expertise, I somehow pushed a button that obliterated that site from view. I have asked a friend to help me restore that site which currently has over 700 items on it from previous seasons on it.

My goal was to also begin updates on that site as a sister to on Sept. 1 as well. Reviving it has proven more difficult than first thought though. I may have to begin a whole new site which would not be favored, but perhaps the lone alternative. I may also begin by putting those items on, at least for a while.

There is a facebook page already in place as well.

In the next week or so, I hope to reach out to the youth programs for RWD, Baraboo T-Birds and Sauk Prairie Flyers and Monkeys, to create a pipeline that will allow me to run all of the youth results every week as well.

It would be nice to find some local photographers that might be attending Ducks, varsity high school or even youth hockey games to create more art for the stories this season. Unfortunately, all we can offer here is a photo credit for now, but that could change down the road.

Watch this space for more updates on both websites.

Jimmy D’s Notes — Hockey talk Aug. 19

By Jim den Hollander


Our goal here beginning Sept. 1, is to have daily items. Some days will be harder than others and in an effort to get something started here are a few random tidbits for today – Aug. 19, 2021.

Danny Roe was in town at the beginning of last season to take part in the team’s first Alumni game at the Lake Delton Ice Arena.

Danny Roe

To start with, we want to wish a Happy 27th Birthday to Danny Roe. A native of Montana, Roe came to the Dells Ducks in 2013 and played 30 games, collecting seven goals and 15 points . He finished the season in the Western States Hockey League, but returned to the Dairy State playing three seasons with the Marian University ACHA squad and later, played some with the Fond du Lac Bears in the Great Lakes Hockey League, a senior circuit.

Roe was a force on top of the blue paint when he played for the Ducks in 2013-14.

Ducks open training Camp

The Dells Ducks 2021-22 players will be arriving in town over the next 24 hours if they haven’t arrived already. Players, family and billets will be at the Lake Delton Ice Arena for an orientation day Saturday and the team will begin dryland workouts on Monday. Part of the first week’s activities will be assisting Lake Delton Ice Arena Owner Aaron Kirby with installing the ice for this season. The Ducks also did the same last season.

Up next Recaps of College campaigns

Over the next week or so, we will highlight the freshman hockey seasons for Kaylee Engel, Jordan O’Connor and Julianna Teske, Sauk County residents who began their respective college careers in the WIAC and MIAC Conferences last season.

There won’t be a lot of details as the NCAA D3 seasons were cut short due to the effects of the pandemic. Watch for game by game coverage of all three this season.

Pelisek to honor Ducks and Morris at Demo Derby

By Jim den Hollander


Saturday will be a complete day for Dells Ducks and their fans.

The 2021-22 season will officially begin with an orientation day for returning and incoming Ducks players along with their families and billets, wrapping up with a cookout for everyone.

Chris Pelisek began work on this ’95 Toyota Corolla which will be entered at the Mauston Fair Demolition Derby on Saturday.

Meanhile, on Saturday night, Ducks penalty box worker and super fan, Chris Pelisek will pay homage to his favorite team and friend Kelly Morris as he enters a car in the Demolition Derby at the Mauston fair this weekend.

Dells Ducks

Pelisek, a regular at these events has picked up a ’95 Toyota Corolla which he has prepared for the event.

Morris took an interest in Pelisek’s exploits in the cars and it was frequently the topic of conversation between them at the Lake Delton Ice Arena.

“Kelly asked me if I was still doing the derbies and to let him know when I was running,” said Pelisek.

“I always would remember the day after that I was supposed to let Kelly know. Kelly’s wish was to see me run in a demo. That is why I am dedicating this run for him. I am also dedicating this run for my cousin that also passed away.”

He has also been working on a paint scheme that will honor the Ducks and Morris. We encourage any Ducks fans to head to the Mauston Fairgrounds Saturday to cheer on Pelisek.

Drop the gloves Chris and Let’s get in on!

End of an era for varsity teams

A look back at the Badger North Conference 2010-20

By Jim den Hollander


When the RWD Cheavers, Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds and Sauk Prairie Eagles face off this fall, it will not just be a return from a year’s absence of play in the Badger North Conference, it will be in an entirely new version of the Badger Conferences.

Gone are the Badger North and Badger South Conferences. New alignment has changed them to the Badger West and Badger East.

The Sauk County teams will all be in the Badger West starting this season, but it will have a fresh look. Longtime Conference rival and front runner, Waunakee Warriors along with the DeForest Norskies and Beaver Dam Golden Beavers will no longer be a part of the same conference, replaced by the Edgewood Crusaders, Oregon Panthers and Monroe Cheesemakers. The other three will be a part of the Badger East.

Looking back, since the 2010-11 campaign, with the current version of Cheavers and Thunderbirds, all three local teams have at least one conference title while the team to beat almost every season was the Warriors.

For the first two seasons, those five teams (Cheavers, Thunderbirds, Eagles, Warriors and Norskies) made up the Badger North, the Norskies taking a sabbatical in 2012-13 reducing it to a four-team league.

The Norskies returned in 2013-14 and the following season, the league grew to a six-team group with the addition of the McFarland Spartans. They remained in the league for three seasons, replaced in 2017-18 by the Golden Beavers making up the league membership through 2019-20. Due to the restrictions of this past season, the Badger North and South Conferences were both off the books.

Following is a look at all the teams from the Badger North Conference from 2010-2020

Waunakee Warriors

Overall Conference Record – (2010-20) 72-16-2

Conference Titles – 2011-12; 2013-14 (shared); 2015-16; 2016-17; 2019-20

The Warriors have been in the hunt for the conference crown every season, finishing as either champion or runner up in each season.

In 2011-12. The Warriors were led on the score sheet by Derek Straus who led the conference in scoring with 64 points, one point ahead of teammate Jason Ford

In 2011-12, the Warriors won the conference title, led by Jason Ford’s 88 points, Keegan Ford finishing third overall with 63. Three different goaltenders: Nick Severson, Nick Fellows and Mitch Horras teamed up to lead the team to a stingy 18 goals against in conference play.

In 2012-13, The team was 3-3 in conference, led by Jacob Thousand who collected 37 points with three others (Jacob Hudecek, Blake Ripley and Blake Anderson) over the 30-point plateau.

Thousand nearly doubled his points total with 69 in 2013-14 and that was second best on the team behind the conference leading Chevy Ford who collected 76.

Another boost to 86 points saw Thousand as the team and conference leader the following season just one in front of teammate Blake Ripley. The same pair led the way in 2015-16 as well, Thousand with 94 points and Ripley right behind with 87.

In 2017-18, the Warriors finished as conference runners up and the team was led by Zane Marshman’s 40 points.

Defense was key in 2017-18 and the Warriors notched just 35 goals in conference play, but still finished second overall, led by Mason Ihrke who collected 28 points. He also led the team in 2018-19 with 35 points.

In 2019-20 Isaac Nett stepped up as the team’s scoring leader with 51 points.

RWD Cheavers

Overall Conference Record – (2010-20) 57-28-5

Conference Titles – 2010-11; 2014-15; 2017-18; 2018-19

The Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells/Mauston co-operative effort could not have started better as the team raced to a conference title, dropping just one of eight games, and outscoring the conference rivals 50-21 in 2010-11.

Ryan Theiler and Luke Bjorklund shared the team lead in scoring and were third best in the conference with 54 points each and Shane Moilanen turned in some solid work in goal with a 2.53 Goals Against Average and a Save Percentage of .930.

Bjorklund returned for the 2011-12 season and improved to 58 points, good enough for fourth best in the conference on a young Cheavers team rebuilding from a heavy graduation class the previous season.

In 2012-13, the RWD Cheavers recorded its only last place finish winning two of six in the tightly bunched four-team Badger North Conference. Cortland Maxfield powered the offense with 43 points and tied for second in the league in overall scoring.

The Cheavers worked its way to third place overall in 2013-14, led in scoring by junior Jordan Brown who picked up 39 points, fourth best in the conference. He returned the following season and shared the team scoring lead with Jordan Bill – both at 58 points and led the to its second conference title in a season that saw the team turning it around from sub .500 before its own Christmas tournament to undefeated the rest of the way, carrying all the way to the state quarterfinals.

The following season, the Cheavers slipped a bit, to third in conference, paced in scoring by sophomore Dylan Brown who put up 49 points. Senior goaltender Mike Olson handled the bulk of the work, putting up a .901 Save Percentage.

The following season, the Cheavers finished as runners up in league standings, but Chris Jones became the team’s first conference scoring leader, racking up several multi-goal games on his way to a 34-goal, 47-point season, Dylan Brown (33 points) and Derek Pawlak (31 points) rounding out the top five.

The Cheavers, led by senior Dylan Brown climbed to the top of the conference for its first of two straight seasons in 2017-18. Brown was the runaway conference points leader and among the state leaders with an 85-point campaign, Jacob Ely finishing third with 46 points.

Pawlak was third in conference scoring and tops on the Cheavers with 50-points in 2018-19, its fourth and final conference title season. Thomas Pfaff finished with 42 points, good enough for fifth overall.

In 2019-2020, RWD fell to fourth place with a 4-6 conference record and Danny Ely was the team’s top scorer with 39 points.

Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds

Overall Conference Record – (2010-20) 46-39-6

Conference Titles – 2013-14

The first season of the Baraboo/Portage co-op saw the Thunderbirds finishing at 3-4-1 and led on the score sheet by Jeremy Ebert who collected 24 goals and 34 points.

The following season saw the team at 4-4 in the conference standings powered by Adam Laux who contributed 38 points, two more than teammate Tyler Laux.

In 2012-13, the T-Birds compiled a 3-3 record in conference play and Tyler Laux was fourth in conference scoring with 41 points, Adam Stanton finishing sixth with 34 points.

In 2013-14, the Thunderbirds boosted its conference record to 7-1 and shared the conference title with the Warriors. Tyler Laux boosted his points total to 47 points and was third in conference scoring, Stanton rounding out the top five with 38 points.

A solid 7-2-1 record the following season saw the T-Birds finishing third, just two points out of top spot. Douglas MacDonald paced the team in scoring with 39 points and Steven Mordini was close behind with 33.

In 2015-16, the Thunderbirds finished at 7-2-2 and second in the division with Mordini leading the team with a 63-point season, third best in conference. Dawson Hinz racked up 50 points.

Thunderbirds fell off a bit in 2016-17 season, under .500 at 4-5-1 and fourth in the six-team division. Nick MacDonald was the team’s top scorer with 23 points.

The team was fourth again in 2017-18 led in scoring by Mike Wech with 31 points and Jack MacDonald right behind with 28.

Thunderbirds slipped a bit to 4-6 in 2018-19. Campbell Koseor led the team in scoring with six goals and 16 points. Koseor also led the charge in 2019-20 with 33 points, four in front of teammate Cameron Logan.

Sauk Prairie Eagles

Overall Conference Record – (2010-20) 31-54-5

Conference Titles – 2012-13

The Eagles have had two solid spikes with a bit of a down stretch in between through the last decade. The community has an amazing group of teams from varsity through youth and would have turned its overall record to over .500 in the next few seasons. Now its goal will be to win some Badger West titles.

In 2010-11, the Eagles were led by then first-year Luke McElhenie who picked up 36 points and helped the team to a 2-5-1 conference record. Travis Jacobson was close behind with 31 points and Dan Brennan collected 28.

The following season, the Eagles improved all the way to second place in the conference with a record of 5-2-1 and McElhenie improved his scoring total to 56 points, fifth best in the league with Jacobson seventh with 46 points.

The rise to the top was completed in 2012-13 with a 4-2 record giving the Eagles the outright conference crown and McElhenie led the conference with 68 points, well in front of teammate Jacob Free who was second best with 43 points.

In 2013-14 the Eagles collected just a single win in conference, tying for fourth in the league. Michael Wenzel was the team’s top scorer with 14 points. The Eagles won just once the following season as well, falling to sixth place, led in scoring by Cam Gesicki who scored 13 goals and collected 17 points.

The fall was finalized in 2015-16 as the Eagles dropped to 0-10, Gesicki again pacing the offense with a 14-point campaign.

The Eagles started the climb back up the standings in 2016-17 season with a 2-7-1 record, finishing on top of McFarland in the standings and led by a pair of first-year students, Riley Jelinek and Camden Desroches with 21 points apiece. That pair was just getting started.

The following season, Jelinek added another 45 points to his total while Desroches added 38 and the Eagles moved to third place with a 5-4-1 record.

Jelinek didn’t just lead the league, but the state in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. He notched 79 points with Desroches second in conference with 60 in their junior seasons as the Eagles finished just under .500 at 4-5-1. A tough loss in the final conference match of the season against the Warriors denied the Eagles another shared title but Jelinek once again led the state with 85 points.

The team held down the top three spots as sophomore Nick Mast finished with 63 points, one ahead of Desroches.

DeForest Norskies

Overall Conference Record – (2010-20) 13-70-1

Conference Titles – None

Life in the Badger North hasn’t been easy for the Norskies who have finished at the bottom of the tough conference six times and last won a game in the 2016-17 season. Individual bright spots include:

Jake Nordenstrom fifth in league scoring in 2010-11 with 49 points, four ahead of teammate Austin Frank; Matthew Bulovosky racked up 72 points, second best in the conference in 2011-12.

In 2013-14 Weston Knutson led the team in scoring with 27 points and in 2014-15 Logan Wright paced the squad with 41 points, also leading the way the following season with 39 points.

The 2016-17 season saw the Norskies climb to 6-4 in the standings, good enough for third place, led by Wright again with 37 points. In 2018-19, Nicholas Garnell led the way with 10 goals and 14 points and in 2019-20 he led the way again with 35 points, followed by current Dells Ducks player Bryce Jacobsen with 26 points.

McFarland Spartans

Overall Conference Record – (2014-17) 9-21-0

Conference Titles – None

Spartans were added to the Badger North in the fall of 2014 and played three seasons. The first two they finished fourth with a 3-7-0 record followed by a 4-6-0 mark. The team dropped to sixth in its final season with a 2-8-0 record.

William Kemnitz collected 40 points and was eighth in the league in scoring in 2014-15, Dillon Clark rounding out the top 10 with 34.

The following season, Dietrich Schwoerer led the way with 42 points, seventh best in Conference and in 2016-17 it was Grant Newcomer with 24 points.

Beaver Dam Golden Beavers

Overall Conference Record – (2017-20) 14-14-1

Conference Titles – None

The Golden Beavers were a nice fit in the Badger North. While the team never collected a conference title, it was in the mix most of the time. tough second halves dropped the team to 4-5 in its first season and 4-6 in 2018-19 and the Beavers finished at 6-3-1 in 2019-20, good enough for third place.

Sam Vander Hoeven racked up 48 points and finished second in league scoring in the team’s first season while Jay Kirschbaum was fifth with 44 points.

In 2018-19, Vander Hoeven finished at 48 points again, this time good enough for fourth in scoring and Daniel Smolen was 10 points behind, in sixth spot and Ben Cremers was ninth with 31.

Riley Vander Hoeven picked up 60 points in 2019-20 to finish fourth in scoring and Cremers was sixth with 50. Smolen was seventh with 45 points and Ian Conlin was tied for 11th with 35 points.

Varsity fall sports up next but plenty of hockey being played

By Jim den Hollander


Students are likely not pleased but the summer break is nearly over for athletes.

After what seemed to be the busiest summer yet for varsity hockey players, a majority of them will be heading to football fields, soccer pitches, volleyball or tennis courts, pools, golf courses or cross-country running courses for the next few months.

Football practices begin Tuesday while boys’ soccer, girl’s tennis, golf, volleyball, swimming, and cross country for both kicks off a week or two later, depending on the team.

Unofficial captains’ practices for hockey players will likely begin in early September as the ice will be in the Lake Delton Ice Arena by then and SPARC in Prairie du Sac will have floor hockey sessions.

Official first practices for the varsity hockey programs will begin on Nov. 8.

RWD Cheavers

The RWD regular season is scheduled to begin once again against the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders, this time around at the South Wood County Recreation Center on Nov. 23. Sauk Prairie Eagles will face Onalaska Hilltoppers in its first of two home games to kick off the season on the same night.

Sauk Prairie Eagles

Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds will faceoff on home ice against the Menomonie Mustangs Dec. 1.

There hasn’t been any official information released yet, but the three Sauk County varsity teams will be in a slightly different conference. Gone are the Waunakee Warriors, Beaver Dam Golden Beavers and DeForest Norskies, replaced by the Madison Edgewood Crusaders, Oregon Panthers and Monroe Cheesemakers.

Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds

The Badger Lightning schedule is not available as of today (July 27).

The Dells Ducks will be on the ice a little earlier, beginning with a tryout camp in Crystal Lake, Ill. Aug. 6-8.

Dells Ducks

Players will arrive in town in late August, the players will begin with a week of dryland training and then hit the ice. The team will head to Motown for a weekend of exhibition matches against the Detroit Fighting Irish and Motor City Hockey Team Sept. 10-12.

The following weekend, the Ducks will open the USPHL Premier Midwest-West regular season with games Sept. 17-18 against the Rum River Mallards from Isanti, Minn.

Jordan O’Connor
Kaylee Engel
Jack MacDonald
Julianna Teske

Locals at colleges will begin soon after.

After COVID all but wiped out seasons for a trio of locals last year, they will be looking forward to finally playing a regular NCAA Division 3 campaign this fall.

Kaylee Engel from Lavalle, captain of the 2019-20 Badger Lightning varsity team, will begin her sophomore season with the Northland College Lumberjills while, Jordan O’Connor, a 21-game winner in her senior season with the Sauk Prairie Eagles, will also be back for her second year between the pipes for the UW-River Falls Falcons while Julianna Teske, a Reedsburg resident will begin her sophomore season with the Augsburg Auggies. Regular seasons will begin in late October for all three players.

Former Baraboo/Portage captain, Jack MacDonald will begin his freshman season with the St. Michael’s College Purple Knights in the Northeast-10 Conference. The Purple Knights play out of Colchester Vermont and that season is also scheduled to begin in late-October.

Before you know it, full time hockey will be upon us again.