By Jim den Hollander
All four area schools had at least one game added to their respective schedules Sunday (January 25) with the release of the WIAA Sectional Brackets for this spring.
As expected, Sauk Prairie drew the best seed of the local crew, set at #3 in the group, behind only the Madison Edgewood Crusaders and Verona Wildcats. Those three will draw a first round by along with number four Onalaska and number five Waunakee who will play each other in the Regional finals round.
The RWD Cheavers were granted the sixth seed and will open the post season at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) against the 11th ranked Middleton Cardinals. Winner of this match will advance to play at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) two nights later.
The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds will also get a first-round home game at Pierce Park Pavilion, also on Feb. 2 and also against the Cardinals…but out of Sun Prairie. Winner of this contest will draw a tough assignment, moving on to play the top seeded Edgewood Crusaders.
For the Badger Lightning, the six-team Sectional pool (Section 3) will begin play on February 4. The Badger Lightning have looked better each time it hits the ice, but unfortunately, that has not converted to wins and as a result, the Lightning, looking for its first playoff victory since 2012 will be placed as the sixth seed, traveling to Onalaska for its opening round contest against the Hilltoppers.
Ironically, the Lightning faces the same team tonight (Jan. 25) at Pierce Park Pavilion so it will be interesting to see if coaches hold cards close to their chest in this one.
Following is a closer look at the first-round matchups.
RWD (10-6) vs. Middleton (0-3-1) – The Cardinals are generally among the favorites in this Section, but have possibly seen players jump to junior or AAA squads this season as the team played just a handful of contests and none at Capitol Ice in Middleton.
The two teams have met twice in the past, the Cardinals capturing a 3-2 win in the first meeting in the Fall of 2017 at Capitol Ice while the Cheavers collected a 2-1 win at RACA in February of 2019.
On paper, this is a tough match for the Cheavers against another opponent accustomed to deep playoff runs, but this year is a strange one and the Cardinals simply haven’t played enough games for a higher ranking.
Last year the Cheavers won its first-round game with a 1-0 shutout against Monroe, then dropped a heartbreaker to Edgewood in the second round, the winning goal in a 2-1 win coming in the final minute of the contest.
Middleton captured a 7-2 first round win against Tomah/Sparta but were ruled ineligible for the second round, Tomah/Sparta getting the spot instead.
Baraboo/Portage (7-10) vs. Sun Prairie (0-1) – The only game registered for the Cardinals this season is a 5-0 loss at Beaver Dam suffered on Saturday. The team is scheduled to play three times this week including twice (tonight, May 25 and Wednesday) at RACA against Waunakee and Middleton respectively.
These teams have never crossed paths, at least in the Baraboo/Portage history which goes back to 2010.
Last season the Thunderbirds drew the same seed and dropped a heartbreaker 3-1 against Madison Memorial at Pierce Park Pavilion while the Cardinals drew a first round bye and defeated Sparta/Tomah in the Regional finals before dropping a 3-2 edge in Sectional semis against Edgewood.
Badger Lightning (2-9-0) @ Onalaska Hilltoppers (2-3) — The Lightning faces a tough task entering the post season at the Omni as the team has not won a post season contest since the spring of 2012 and have never beaten the Hilltoppers, going back to the 2011-12 seasons. They have played at least once every season and twice a couple times, Onalaska winning by an average score of 6.72-2.09.
Teams meet tonight (Jan. 25) at Pierce Park Pavilion which will give a preview of what is to come. Lightning have looked better of late, limiting opponets to four goals or less in the past three games, but a tough 3-2 loss on the weekend at Brookfield has be considered a setback as the Lightning beat the same team 5-2 at Pierce Park in the second game of the season.