Local youth hockey teams named

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info.

All three of the Sauk County Youth Hockey organizations have announced players on at least a few of their teams.

The Sauk Prairie Flyers and Sauk Prairie Monkeys will have a total of 13 teams at the compertitive levels — two each at the Squirt, Peewee and Bantam levels for the Flyers as well as the 10U and 14U levels for the Monkeys. The Monkeys will boast an amazing three teams at the 12U level.

There are also 39 players registered at the 8U (Mite) level cross-ice programs and another 44 are signed up at the 6U Beginner levels

For more information on the rosters of the various Sauk Prairie teams for the upcoming seasons, visit the organization’s website at https://www.saukprairiehockey.com/ and look under the Teams tabs.

RWD has named both its Bantam and Mite Rosters and with final tryouts at the Squirt and Peewee level taking place late last week, the two teams at each level will also be named in the next day or so as well.

This week, the Squirts and Peewees have pre-season schedules practice with regular schedules next week and season openers as early as the Oct. 29-31 weekend.

For more information on the RWD teams, check out the organizations website https://www.rwdhockey.com/ and visit the team or ice schedule links.

The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds Youth Hockey organization has printed rosters of its competitive teams at the Squirt, Peewee and Bantam levels as well as the 14U Badger Lightning squad.

For more on the Thunderbirds and Badger Lightning visit the organization’s website at https://www.thunderbirdyouthhockey.com/.

Busy opening week for SPYHA

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info.  

Editor/Publisher The ice has been in just over a week at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) and the opening days have been busy for the Sauk Prairie Youth Hockey Association.  

This past Friday night, the Madison Capitols, from the United States Hockey League paid tribute to the local organization with SPYHA Night at the Capitols. Many local players and their families watched the Caps in their home opening contest and first win of the season as they knocked off the defending Clark Cup champion Chicago Steel in a 3-2 overtime thriller.  

Intermission entertainment at the game included a scrimmage hockey contest involving the organization’s 8U players. 

Also on the weekend, volunteers helped Clean the Rink and on Sunday, an open house at SPARC was well attended.  

Pre-Season clinic for all age levels are underway now at the arena and the bantam level players also will benefit from a checking clinic. Player Evaluations will begin for the different divisions on Oct. 10.

Players of all ages and levels hit the ice at SPARC Sunday to take part in the SPYHA Open House.

New look Ultimate Tournaments returns

By Jim den Hollander
Editor/Publisher
Saukhockey.info
Ultimate Tournaments has been a part of the regular hockey season in Sauk County for more than a decade. This year the tournament series will return with its regular dates, including some massive events on Martin Luther King Weekend in January and President’s Day weekend in February.


The tournament offers a unique hockey experience for the teams that attend, with deals offered in the community’s top waterpark resorts, offering a great family weekend with parents and children provided with an exciting experience on and off the ice.


Ultimate Tournaments owner, John Schwarz and Tournament Director Johnny Schwarz also provide weekend jobs for dozens of referees, scorekeeper/timekeepers and directors in more than one location.

The Lake Delton Ice Arena is generally the primary arena on tournament weekends, but Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA), Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo and the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) frequently host games as well. Ice time rentals in Reedsburg, Baraboo and Sauk Prairie directly benefit the youth hockey organizations in all three communities.


Old School hospitality and updates is combined with modern era methods in making the players, parents and coaches up to date on all that is happening. In the arenas, Paper schedule/standings sheets are updated within minutes of the completion of every game and updates are also available online at http://www.ultimatetournaments.com thanks to John Schwarz who uses a home office in Chicago to keep everyone posted, often to events in more than one location on the same weekend. Schwarz’s office is jokingly referred to as ‘Toronto,’ as it serves a similar function to the NHL’s replay center in the Canadian city.


Players have become familiar with the ‘goodies’ provided to team managers at the start of each event, providing some hockey related items to welcome the players to the Dells. Also provided is an information book outlining the many activities available in the Dells and the cloth bag the items come in is a handy piece of equipment the manager can use for the remainder of the season.
While the Dells is the original home for Ultimate Tournaments, Schwarz now runs similar events in St. Louis, Chicago and as of this season, South Bend, Indiana.
The tournaments have some new names and a new look this season. The Dells tournaments will start in with the ‘Northwoods Showdown ‘21 Nov. 12-14 followed a week later by ‘Bucks And Pucks.’


The Martin Luther King Weekend event is once again a double tournament now known as the Glacier King Championship. With an extra day available, this has traditionally seen several Friday to Sunday Divisions along with some that begin Saturday and wrap up on the holiday Monday. This year the events will be run together Jan. 14-16 and Jan. 15-17.
A week after, the Cheddar Cheese Classic will be held Jan. 21-23, 2022 and the Dairyland Classic will also debut in 2022.

Eagles prepare for tough Badger West

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

A few weeks after the start of Captains practices for the RWD Cheavers and Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds, the Sauk Prairie Eagles recently took to the ice at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center.

The Eagles have enjoyed a great deal of success in recent seasons including back to back seasons that saw Riley Jelinek wrap up the season as the state’s leading scorer and last season, a shortened campaign due to COVID restrictions, the Eagles dropped just one game out of 14 in the regular season.

Unfortunately, there is little to show for that success as there was no Badger Conference title last season and the Waunakee Warriors denied them despite an awesome 19-4-1 regular season record.

The playoff road ended both times against the Verona Wildcats who went on both times to the state championship game.

A couple Eagles players have prepared for the regular season with on some elite competition clubs, both senior Erik Peterson and junior Luke Mast playing for the Team Wisconsin 18U and 16U teams respectively.

For Mast, the association with the team allowed him to travel to compete at a tournament in Pittsburgh this past weekend run in conjunction with the season opening Showcase for the United States Hockey League, the only Tier 1 league in the USA. In other words, there were likely as many scouts in the stands from junior, college and professional teams as there was fans and parents.

SPYHA holds equipment fitting/hand out at SPARC

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

Sauk Prairie Youth Hockey Association (SPYHA) held an equipment pick up at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) Tuesday night in preparation of its upcoming hockey season.

The compressors will be turned on Monday, but tonight the arena floor was set up for the youngest players who were trying on equipment and filling their hockey bags.

Association President Dave Jolicoeur (see video interview below) said the Association has an equipment rental available for the younger players that requires just a security deposit at the 6U level and a $40 fee for the 8U skaters. Jolicoeur said any first time player at any level has free registration in their first season.

The numbers are expected to rise enough this season for the organization to once again have two bantam level teams as well as two teams at each age group of the Girls Program — known as the Sauk Monkeys (10U, 12U and 14U) for a total of six teams, compared to four last season.

The organization’s volunteers will begin ice making next week with the first scheduled on-ice sessions beginning Sept. 27.

The SPARC Arena floor was the perfect spot for trying out and issuing equipment for the 6U and 8U skaters on Tuesday night.
Finn Slotty, 5, tries on some gloves above and a neck guard below with his father, Derek. Finn will be a first time skater in the organization’s 6U Program this season.

Eagles raise bar on 2021-22 season challenges

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

The Sauk Prairie Eagles are rolling into the 2021-22 season coming off of back to back Sectional semi-final defeats against the Verona Wildcats. The same Wildcats that won the state title in 2020 and finished as runners up last season.

The team has a combined regular season record of 31-5-1 in regulation and has plenty left in the tank for another deep run.

If they match the regular season success of the previous season, they will have had a great run as the team’s schedule looks tough this time around, beginning with the season opener Nov. 23 at SPARC against the Onalaska Hilltoppers.

Three of the team’s first five games will be against the Hilltoppers, Edgewood Crusaders, now a division foe and the University School of Milwaukee, also a perennial state contender. The Eagles will also compete in the annual Christmas tournament at Hartmeyer and Madison Ice Arenas – usually one of the state’s tougher events. Other regular season games will include Bight Eight opponents from Sun Prairie and Middleton.

The always tough Waunakee Warriors will no longer be in the path of the Eagles, but the Badger West will still be tough with the addition of both the Crusaders and Oregon Panthers and the up and coming Monroe Cheesemakers, rival of all Sauk County communities at the Youth hockey level.

Listed below is a tentative version of the Sauk Prairie Eagles’ 2021-22 regular season schedule, taken from the school’s website. Dates and times are subject to change.

Badger West Conference games are listed in bold

Nov. 23 – vs. Onalaska Hilltoppers @ Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) 7 p.m.

Dec. 2 – vs. Monroe Cheesemakers @ SPARC 7 p.m.

Dec. 7 – vs. Madison Edgewood Crusaders @ LeBahn Arena 7 p.m.

Dec. 9 – vs. Oregon Panthers @ SPARC 7 p.m.

Dec. 11 – vs. University School of Milwaukee Wildcats @ SPARC 2 p.m.

Dec. 14 – vs. Baraboo Thunderbirds @ SPARC 7 p.m.

Dec. 17 – vs. RWD Cheavers @ RACA 7 p.m.

Dec. 21 – vs. McFarland Spartans @ SPARC 7 p.m.

Dec. 28-30 – vs. TBA @ Madison-Hartmeyer tournament

Jan. 6, 2022 – vs. Monroe Cheesemakers @ State Line Ice & Community Expo (SLICE) 7 p.m.

Jan. 11 – vs. Edgwood Crusaders @ SPARC 7 p.m.

Jan. 15 – Badger Challenge @ Waunakee Ice Ponds TBA

Jan. 18 – vs. Sun Prairie Cardinals @ Sun Prairie Ice Arena 7 p.m.

Jan. 21 – vs. Oregon Panthers @ Oregon Ice Arena 7 p.m.

Jan. 25 – vs. Baraboo Thunderbirds @ Pierce Park Pavilion 7 p.m.

Feb. 1 – vs. RWD Cheavers @ SPARC 7 p.m.

Feb. 4 – vs. Middleton Cardinals @ SPARC 7 p.m.

Feb. 8 – vs. Tomah/Sparta  @ SPARC 7 p.m.

Varsity fall sports up next but plenty of hockey being played

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

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.

Coach Walby’s hockey roots set firmly in Sauk County

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

Chris Walby, Head Coach of the Minnesota Mullets is originally from the Sauk Prairie/Lodi area and part of one of the original hockey families.

 

Now 46, Walby played his junior hockey with the Wisconsin Capitols in the USHL and played a few seasons of junior in British Columbia before ultimately turning his focus onto the other side of the bench.

 

He coached the Middleton Cardinals to a host of conference titles and some state championship tournament berths before stepping behind the bench of the Minnesota Iron Rangers of the Superior International Junior Hockey League, a team he coached for three seasons and ultimately purchased.

 

He purchased the Forest Lake (formerly Edina) Lakers in 2016 and renamed the team the Minnesota Mullets the following season. Along with the ownership responsibilities, Walby has been the team’s general manager and coach for the past six seasons as well.

Coach Walby has the best seat in the house, behind the bench for the Minnesota Mullets. Photo Courtesy Kels Witt

 

Walby agreed to take part in an email question-answer type interview with Saukhockey.info earlier this week.

 

Saukhockey.info: I moved here in 2000 and despite the popularity of the Badgers and such, I felt like hockey in Wisconsin was at least a generation behind the hockey states like Minnesota, just in terms of general interest at that time. What are your memories of being a youngster, involved in hockey in Wisconsin?

 

Chris Walby: I grew up on a horse farm set on 32 acres in between Sauk City and Lodi, long before Sauk City and Prairie du Sac built their rink. We were forced to play all our youth hockey in Middleton and for the Madison West Flyers. I have three brothers who also played, so my parents were busy carting us around to the rink.

 

My Gramma and Grandpa were the reason we got involved in hockey. They had Badger Hockey season tickets and took my brothers and I to our first hockey game. We got hooked quick. We loved the Badgers. When we played pick-up games on our pond or in our garage, we’d argue about who got to pretend to be Mark Johnson, John Newberry, Bruce Driver, Chris Chelios, and we always made our youngest brother play as Marc Behrend in net. I’ve got great memories from those days in the Coliseum.

 

SH: You started coaching the Cardinals a few years after I arrived here it appears. I remember varsity hockey for WDHS at that time was pretty much a club team. Middleton is a great sports town. Was the hockey program always stronger or was it tough getting players from the wrestling and/or basketball teams?

 

CW: I played for the Cardinals and graduated from Middleton High School in ‘94. I went on to play junior hockey and then settled in Milwaukee for a few years. When I moved back to Middleton, I was invited to join the staff at Middleton by the Libert brothers who were still the Co-Head Coaches. I was their first captain as they were my coaches during my senior year and their first year at the helm.

 

My Middleton high school teams were good when I played, but the program had a rough stretch for a few years just before I got there. The Liberts added me and another alumnus in Derek Ward and we quickly turned it around. 

 

We ended up going to “State” the first year myself, Derek Ward, Steve, and Tony Libert combined as a staff. We had a great run together. In nine seasons we made three state tournament appearances and won several Big 8 Titles together. 

 

I credit all three of those coaches as the biggest influences in my coaching career. My final season at Middleton finished with a 5 – 1 loss in the “State” finals against Pete Susens and tough Wausau West team. It took Pete 30 years to win that title and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t have 30 years to chase this’ and I moved on.

 

What I miss most about coaching high school hockey are the big games and big game environments. The crowds at Cardinal games were awesome. We built quite the program so the students came out in full force. 

Head Coach Chris Walby celebrates a Sectional title with the Middleton Cardinals varsity team.

The Sectional Semi Final and Final games were amazing. We played with full capacity crowds at Cap Ice, Madison Ice Arena and Verona several times. Obviously, I remember the moments during and following the big wins, but some of my fondest memories were lessons taught during tough losses. For example, we went to six overtimes in the 2006 “State” tournament and lost, but it may be one of my favorite hockey memories of all time. 

 

We had a great blend of characters on that team, and it was amazing how they gave everything they had in that game for each other. It was an amazing experience to watch. Sometimes I find myself being more of a cheerleader than a coach and that was one of those times. Time after time, each kid came back to the bench with a look in their eye that said, “I’m doing my best, Coach!” I’ll never forget that game and my time at Middleton.

 

SH: Your brother Steffon had a great playing (including 289 points in seven seasons in the AHL) and now coaching career (including an SPHL crown won in the spring of 2011 with the Mississippi Surge with regular goaltender Bill Zaniboni). Was he a big influence on you in the sport?

 

CW: Also, at the top of the list of my biggest influences as a coach and player, is my big brother Steffon.

 

As a player, I had huge skates to fill because he was awesome. Growing up, I was his biggest fan. If there was a big goal, he’d score it. I’m not kidding either. All throughout his career, when the game was on the line, nine times out of 10 my brother would get the game winner.

 

I learned a lot just by watching him both as a player and as a coach. As a coach, his demeanor is calm and collected. Regardless of the score. He’s always positive when correcting a mistake or encouraging his guys on during a game. I’m the same, but I’m a lot rowdier on the bench at times than he is.

 

He’s passed a lot of knowledge on to me about defensive zone coverage, offensive zone attacks, effective ways to improve special teams and how to run game day operations. He’s coached at basically every level now, so I’ve still got a lot more to learn from him.

 

SH: How did you first connect with the Iron Rangers? Was the move to juniors something you had been thinking about for a while? Can you talk a bit about life in the SIJHL? I have never lived in that part of Ontario but think those long bus rides in the dead of winter must be the longest and perhaps most excruciating in junior. Also, if you thought the rivalry between Middleton and Verona was strong, it must have been so fun as an American coach in Northwestern Ontario?

 

CW: During the summer of 2012, I was sitting at a Brewer game when I received a text from Sean Storie, a coaching buddy from Superior, Wisconsin. It said, “I think I just got you a Junior A coaching job if you want it.” Ever since my own junior career, I have always said that someday I’m going to run my own junior program.

 

So, I quickly replied, “Where?” Sean responded, “Iron Range.” I had no clue where that even was.

 

Walby behind the bench for the Minnesota Iron Rangers

The owner of the Iron Range Ironheads of the Superior International Junior Hockey League called me the next day and offered me the job over the phone. I told him I had no clue what the Iron Range was and had never heard of his team before. He said they were a second-year team, they weren’t going to renew the current head coach’s contract and they were looking for a new coach to take over and relocate the team 50 miles from Chisolm, Minnesota to Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota.

 

 

I told him I’d jump into my car first thing in the morning and meet him in Hoyt Lakes. It’s about a nine-hour drive from Middleton to Hoyt Lakes and I was totally blown away by how beautiful the Iron Range was in the middle of June.

 

I’ll never forget my first Impression of Hoyt Lakes. You take HWY 4 north out of Duluth for an hour and twenty minutes. All you see during that stretch of highway are beautiful lakes, tall pine tree forests and what seemed like a thousand deer.

 

There is one major road that runs through town, and it takes less than two minutes to get from one end to the other. If you were to stay on that same road, all you see for an hour is the Superior International Forest State Park before you stumble onto Silver Bay, Minnesota, and HWY 61. It’s incredible. It’s also the only way to Thunder Bay so I ended up getting familiar with the view and have a deep appreciation for the area which is also called the Sawtooth Mountain Range.

Local connection. Coach Walby coached Austin Frank, officially listed as being from DeForest and Reedsburg’s Sean Teske on the Iron Rangers. On the left is Mike Frank, father of Austin and Sebastian who attended Wisconsin Dells High School and played with the RWD Cheavers. Mike Frank is a good friend of Walby and has been a scout for the Mullets in recent seasons.

 

The first thing you see as you enter Hoyt Lakes is a welcome sign. The second thing you see is the Hoyt Lakes Ice Arena. I loved that part. It instantly made me feel like the rink was the town’s major focal point. Waiting out in front of the rink was its manager, Wayde West and hockey enthusiast, Francine Bonach. They gave me a tour of the rink, our locker room, the gymnasium and what ultimately sold me on the place, a full-size restaurant quality kitchen they used for weddings, banquets, etc. Wayde and Francine told me all of it was ours to use and for whatever I wanted to use it for. The move just felt right. I had everything I needed to build a team and to build NCAA hockey players.

 

Playing in the SIJHL was tough. It’s a Canadian league and with the exception of two years, we were the only American team in the league. The league was made up of teams in the Northwest Ontario towns of Thunder Bay, Fort Frances, Dryden, Ear Falls and then us, the upstart Minnesota Iron Rangers.

 

Hoyt Lakes is two hours from the Canadian border and once we would cross the border it felt as if it was us against them. The biggest example of this was a heartbreaking blown offsides call that led to our demise in Game 7 of the SIJHL Championship.

 

Regardless, the community and I ended up buying the team from the original owner, we built a winning franchise, filled our home arena, and brought something special to a community that needed us just as much as we needed them. It changed all our lives.

 

In the end, I brought dozens of Wisconsinites with me to the “Range” and ended up placing over 30 players into the NCAA. It was a special and unforgettable time for all of us.

 

SH: When the Ducks first joined the Minnesota League, I had never heard of Edina. Of course, now I realize Edina and Maple Grove might be two of the greatest hockey towns in the USA. The Lakers/Mullets are a team with a solid history in the Twin Cities area. Is that part of what made you interested in the team?

 

CW: I’m forever a Wisconsin guy, but I have absolutely fallen in love with the hockey culture in Minnesota and specifically in the Twin Cities. We have a unique set up here for junior hockey. We play out of Augsburg University Ice Arena and are in the heart of Minneapolis. We are less than a mile from where the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Gophers play and several Minneapolis parks and landmarks.

 

We have a state-of-the-art gym, rink and an incredible coaching and game day staff. Logistically, we have five NCAA schools here in town and over a dozen more within three hours from here. These are the things I’ve always wanted in building a program. We have everything a player needs to develop on and off the ice and into the NCAA.

 

SH: Junior hockey teams — successful ones at least, always have a ‘family’ feel. Your bond with the players you coached is obvious and I think you might have more returners each season than most teams as a result. What do you specifically look for in players wanting to play for the Mullets?

 

CW: I look for players with high quality character. Good kids mostly from good families.

 

I think team chemistry is the most important factor in building a successful team and program. I try to fill the locker room each year with those types. It always leads to a tight locker room and players build lifelong bonds and relationships with each other. I feel that type of relationship between players make them compete so much harder and they do it for each other.

 

Those type of kids also make my job feel extra rewarding. They appreciate what we do here and what they’re given.

 

I truly care for our players and want them to reach their full potential. Nothing makes me smile more than when they have success and achieve their goals. I think they know that. The best phone call in the world is the call I get when a player has accepted an offer to play college hockey.

 

We get these players at a time where they can set the table for the rest of their lives and our guys are doing great. What we try to teach here goes beyond hockey. We want good players to turn into good husbands, fathers, and members in their communities. The longer I coach, the more I see that come to fruition.

 

SH: You, like Coach Falzone, seem to relish a chance to wear a lot of hats. You don’t appear to delegate much, preferring to look after most of the day-to-day stuff yourself. Does the paperwork and stuff that goes with being an owner/gm, take any time away from being a coach or have you found a good way to make it work?

 

CW: I’ve found a way to successfully make it work. True, I do wear a lot of hats and I’m involved in every aspect of running a junior hockey team, but I’ve also surrounded myself with several great people in part time roles that are key players in day-to-day operations.

 

I had my first full time assistant coach this past season and it was awesome. Max Seiter from Steven’s Point. He’s a former player of mine from the Range and went on to study Physical Therapy at NCAA Finlandia in the U.P.

 

Coach Max was great. Knocked it out of the park in his first year of coaching. He made the biggest impact in the gym. He knows his stuff and the guys could see it and bought in from the start.

 

Marty Sertich joined our staff this past season. Marty had an incredible career in the NHL and was a Hobey Baker winner at Colorado College. He’s from here and helps with the University St. Thomas women’s program as well.

 

Coach Walby is popular with Players and fans in the Twin Cities. Photo Courtesy Kels Witt

Coach Marty would come in one or two times a week to lead our skill practices. He’s still in incredible shape and would run the kids through edge work drills and a series of drills focused on passing, shooting, and getting “touches” in each week. The boys loved him.

 

Coach Tom Strelow is also still involved. He’s been a great mentor for our players and for me as a coach. Tom also serves as an assistant for Minnesota high school state champion Mahtomedi High School and is a billet father each year for several of our boys.

 

I’m also blessed with a great game day staff (HP, Nicki, Kels, Zoa, Kate, Roy, and Dan) that run our home games and travel with us for several road games. They’ve filled in several times when road teams were short a trainer or a broadcast guy and our equipment manager isn’t shy about sharpening an opposing team’s skate.

 

The toughest part about running a team is putting the team together. Several owner, coaches, and GM’s struggle at it. I don’t have the budget to run all over the country to scout and who wants to be away from their family that often?”

 

I’m lucky to have an amazing network of friends in hockey. I’m very thankful and grateful for them. A majority of my roster each season is built on referrals from people in hockey that I’ve met along the way and know we can provide a great place to play from some kind of an experience we’ve shared over the years.

 

I’ve always believed that if you treat someone well, they’ll always stick with you. I can say that my vets typically feel that way and if they don’t, that’s ok. Where can we move you to where you’re happy?

 

In the end, each locker room is the same each year. We’ve all had a blast and it’s a season they will never forget.

 

SH: How often do you get back to this area? Is it still special for you walking into Cap Ice or any of the other rinks in this area?

 

CW: I get back often. I had a special experience this past year during Covid and when our rinks shutdown in Minnesota. I let the boys go home for a week at Thanksgiving and when they came back, we moved operations and we all met at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC).

 

It was awesome and kind of a dream come true for me. It was a feeling of my life in hockey kind of coming full circle. I loved having the team on my real home turf. I introduced several to Culver’s, Piggly Wiggly, Devils Lake and the Dells.

 

The staff at Sauk’s arena was awesome to us and the venue worked perfect for our needs. Dave Jolicoeur has a great crew there and was great to work with. 

 

We skated out of Sauk City’s rink for two weeks. We played four games and practiced there before moving on to our Chicago Showcase just before Christmas.

 

It was a special trip. One that I will never forget. The boys thought we were going to be forced to shut down for weeks and we didn’t. We made it through. They sincerely appreciated it and we grew together as a team at such a crucial time. 

 

Cheavers bounce back for State Consolation

The RWD Peewee A hockey team was the lone representative from the organization to reach the State Championships and they returned home with a Consolation Championship trophy from the Sauk Prairie-based event on Sunday.

RWD qualified for the State tournament with a 7-1 win at Regionals but face one of its toughest opponents on the season in its first contest, pushed to the Consolation side with a 5-1 loss against the Tomah/Sparta Titans.

However, the locals bounced back with a pair of lopsided wins, reaching the Consolation final with an 8-2 whipping of the Amery Warriors, then collected the Consolation plaque with a 7-0 shutout against Waupun Warriors.

 

Cheavers 1 Titans 5

Having lost a lopsided contest to the Titans earlier this season, Head Coach Joe Uminski and his squad knew the opener would be a tough contest and that served to take a little pressure off the team.

They certainly weren’t going to just hand over a win, but they were playing as underdogs.

“We had nothing to lose,” said Uminski in an email interview. “Tomah is one of the best teams in the state. It’s basically the same team that on the Squirt A State title two years ago, plus a couple good players from Sparta.”

Uminski was proud of the effort from everyone, and it was his team in charge after a period as RJ Manley converted an Ethan Wilcox feed to put the underdogs up 1-0 heading to the second.

Despite a brilliant effort in goal from Jordan Kowalski that saw his team up 1-0 despite being outshot 12-4 in the period, the Titans eventually found a way to the mesh, scoring two unanswered second period goals and then two early in the third to grab control.

“Tomah controlled the game, so even when we were up, it was going to be hard to stay in front of them.  I’m extremely proud of our effort. We gave them everything we had,” said Coach Uminski adding his team focused on blocking shots, back checking and clearing rebounds to eliminate Tomah chances. “We did those throughout the game.

Tomah outshot the locals 40-11 and Kowalski, who allowed just two more goals in the final six periods at state, rightfully earned high praise from the coach.

“He played one of his best games of the season,” said Uminski adding that is nothing new for the Cheavers’ goalie. “We had a learning moment early in the season with mental toughness and after he past that, he really took off. He grew as a goaltender and as a kid.”

Amery Warriors 2 RWD Cheavers 8

One of the best things about the peewee Cheavers is its offensive abilities and that was on full display in the final two games.

The Cheavers carried a two-goal lead out of the opening period against Amery before putting up five straight shutout periods. Two more in both the second and third periods allowed the Cheavers to skate away in this one.

Nine different Cheavers checked in on the scoresheet, led by Landen Uminski who fired three goals and added two assists. Paige Othmer fired a pair, Wilcox adding a goal and assist, and other goals scored by Payton Kowalski and Ethan Pope. Single assists went to Hailey Dietl, Wyatt Arnold, RJ Manley, and Tyler Krieski.

Cheavers 7 Waupun Warriors 0

The thrill wasn’t lessened, but the drama of the third game didn’t last long, the Cheavers carrying a 4-0 lead out of the opening period on its way to a lopsided shutout win.

This time Wilcox potted the hat trick, along with an assist and Krieski picked up two of each. Uminski set up a pair with other goals for Payton Kowalski and Elizabeth Haag.

In goal, Jordan Kowalski kicked out all 14 of the shots he faced.

The peewees returned home with a trophy and amazing memories of an experience many people don’t get to participate in.

“We get a trophy and I’ll add a photo of the team and small plaque with all their names on there” said Uminski, meaning every time these players walk in the Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA), they will be reminded of this accomplishment.

The RWD Peewee “A’ Cheavers returned home from the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association (WAHA) Peewee 3A State Championship tournament in Sauk Prairie this past weekend (March 13-14) with a Consolation Champions’ trophy. Team members (in numerical order) include: Hailey Dietl; Wyatt Arnold; Landen Uminski; Ethan Wilcox; Paige Othmer; RJ Manley; Elizabeth Haag; Payton Kowalski; Jordan Kowalski; Ethan Pope; Tyler Krieski and Olivia Renneberg. Coaches are: Joe Uminski; Nate Wilcox and Justin Pope.

“As a coach, I’ve been luck to coach four teams to state and come away with three trophies,” said Uminski. “Each one has history attached to it and the stories that with them. A lot of memories of each season.”

Any player, coach or parent who reaches the state stage, in any sport, gets a special experience. With the craziness of the 2020-21 season, it’s a great finish and for the Cheavers, there was some lemonade made from a lemon of a season. Playing out of Region four also guarantees top notch league opponents and a team well-prepared for when the big games start.

“With all the Division one teams in the Madison area, we have some great competition,” said Coach Uminski. “One silver lining, with all the rink restrictions in Dane County, this year, teams had to come to us. We only played on the road three times. Additionally, I tried to schedule as many top teams from the area to really push these kids this year. We had a great year and were extremely successful, more successful that I thought we would be.

“This is a great group of kids who want to learn and be pushed. Add in the commitment from the parents to get their kids to all the practices and games was amazing. The families made it one of the best years I have ever had coaching. It’s tough letting go of this group, that’s for sure.

“They will always have a special place in my heart.”

 

 

 

 

Peewee B Flyers take a pair from Comets at SPARC

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

The Sauk Prairie Peewee B Flyers made the trek to Waupaca to collect a pair of wins against the host Peewee Comets.

After a 3-0 shutout win in the opening contest, teams returned a few hours later and notched a 4-1 decision at Waupaca Expo Center.

In the opening match, Ethan Goodman recorded a 15-save shutout for the Flyers with the game winning goal scored by Cyril Welch. The other two goals came from Jacob Wiegmann and all three goals were unassisted.

Teams returned later for a rematch. This time the Flyers carried a 2-0 lead out of the first period and were up 2-1 heading to the third.

Caden Argall converted a pass from Blake Dederich for the first Flyers’ goal and Ryan Jorganson sank the game winner from Ethan Goodman in the game’s fourth minute.

Kash Caldwell restored the two-goal cushion early in the final period from Baryn McNeish and Argall’s second added some insurance with a little under four minutes to play.

Jameson Ballweg stopped 16 of 17 in goal for the Flyer to collect the victory which raised the team’s overall record to 15-8.

The Peewee ‘B’ Flyers have a big game ahead as they take on the RWD ‘B’ Cheavers at 12:15 p.m. at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) for the Region 4 berth at the WAHL Peewee 3B Championship tournament which will be played at Rhinelander.