By Jim den Hollander
Goaltender Cooper Oakes became the latest in a growing list of quality RWD varsity seniors to be honored by ‘Team Tracy’ on Jan. 20.
Playing the final home game of the regular season at RACA (one more will be played at Lake Delton Ice Arena Feb. 8), the RWD Cheavers held a brief ceremony at the end of the opening period to present the ‘Team Trophy’ plaque, named in honor of Tracy Jones, a hockey enthusiast, youth hockey volunteer, coach, manager, and hockey parent who passed away after a courageous battle against Cancer, Dec. 22, 2015.
Oakes, known for much more than being a solid goaltender, is a popular figure with all RWD Cheavers fans for his efforts both on and off the ice, making him an obvious candidate for this honor.
Oakes is the seventh player and second goaltender to collect the honor, following the first recipient of the award, Mike Olson (2015-16).
The following season, Chris Jones, oldest son of Tracy was named for the honor in a season that saw him score 34 goals in 23 games, one of the highest single-season totals in the team’s 12-year history.
Ben Horzewski was next to receive the honor, a solid contributing forward in all four years he played on the varsity team, Horzewski collected 69 points in 71 games with the Cheavers and currently sits 10th on the team’s all-time scoring list.
In 2018-19, Ben Jones, another son of Tracy, was named as the winner in a solid senior season that saw him put up 22 points to wrap up a 50-point career with the team.
In 2019-20, Thomas Pfaff was the team’s captain and leader, receiving the fifth spot on the plaque in a season that saw him put up 28 points to wrap up his own 86-point career, good enough for seventh spot on the overall list.
Last season, Connor Schyvinck became the first defenseman to collect the honor. A great 200-foot player, Schyvinck finished his four-year run with 42 points, among the highest total for a blue liner.
All six of these athletes impressed Head Coach Neil Mattson with their efforts in and out of the locker room.
Oakes is four games from finishing an amazing high school run as a four-year starter in goal. His 14 wins this season rank him second in state behind only the 15 wins collected by Dante Desidero of the Waukesha Wings. He enters play next week with a 2.05 Goals Against Average and a .926 Save Percentage, both just a good game or two away from moving into the state’s top 10.
A three-sport athlete, Oakes has said his primary spot is hockey and he is looking to continue to play, likely at the junior level and ultimately as a college athlete.
Chris Jones on hand for the ceremony, said he was confident it would be Coop getting the award. Several years ahead of Oakes as a player, Jones said the young goaltender was no secret.
“Cooper’s always been someone you knew about,” said Jones. “Growing up through youth hockey he was always a strong goaltender. I knew his dad through youth hockey and yeah, he has always been a strong hockey player. It’s no surprise he’s the player that won it tonight.”
“I didn’t know he was winning it ahead of time, but kind of had a gut feeling that it would be him.”
Jones recalls his big senior season with the team and modestly handed much of the credit to his linemate that currently leads all RWD scorers.
“A lot of it comes down to who I was playing with,” said Jones with a chuckle. “I felt that I just kind of got into a zone and was able to find the net. Playing with Dylan Brown, he makes it real easy to play hockey.”
Jones had a great touch though as a finisher and the two were perfect for each other.
“Dylan could make any pass and he just told me to get to the net,” said Jones.
Tracy’s own personal mandate was primarily to make sure everyone had a chance to play the game she loved, and this writer was lucky enough to be a co-coach with Jones for a season a decade ago. The team excelled at having a good time despite a long time between ‘W’s, which is what goes into this award.
“Yeah, Sportsmanship, Character development, all that,” agreed Jones
“I remember that season you coached with her, it was Squirt ‘B’ I think. I definitely remember that year and it wasn’t about wins and losses it was about making sure everybody was being coached and being developed as opposed to just going out there and trying to win games.”
Jones graduated from UW-Madison with a Chemistry degree in December and was recently hired to a job in Verona doing pharmaceutical coding.
He pulled out the skates for the first time in a couple seasons to play in the annual RWD Alumni tournament in December.
“I would like to play more. COVID definitely messed things up for men’s leagues and stuff like that, but I would like to get out and play a little more.”
The annual presentation of the ‘Team Tracy’ honor is a great excuse for Jones to see his alma mater in action again and of course, to honor his mother.
“It’s always good to see the other players that have won it and just have that night to remember and be recognized.”
Oakes joins the prestigious list now and hopefully will get a chance to make an annual visit as well as the list grows by one each season.
Oakes is another player that Tracy would have been proud to cheer on at the Reedsburg Area Community Arena.