Several players from the RWD varsity hockey team attended a two-day event at the Omni Center in Onalaska this past weekend and they certainly can’t complain about the ice time.
With seven teams entered in the annual summer event, including split squads from both Black River Falls Tigers and the Avalanche (La Crosse Aquinas/Holmen) and other teams from Viroqua Blackhawks and the host Onalaska Hilltoppers along with the Cheavers.
The schedule suited the Cheavers with three games on Friday against both Black River Falls teams along with Viroqua followed up on Saturday with back-to-back games against the Avs split squads and the finale against the Hilltoppers Saturday afternoon.
WEHL tryouts and other commitments left the Cheavers with a small number of players Saturday, but the continued to outwork both Avalanche teams. Bolstered with a few Avs players for its final contest, the Cheavers wrapped up a 4-2 weekend with an intense high-octane match with a rivalry evident between two teams who have played some big games against each other in the past decade.
Still months from opening the practice schedule, these summer events (including a get together in Baraboo and a weekend in Superior prior) are generally a chance for players to continue, renew or start the bonding process as they look forward to the 2022-23 WIAA season.
There are always questions after graduations change the team every season. This season’s squad is impressive as it appears willing to work hard and play a physical and skilled game. Most impressive to this writer was the intensity level entering scrimmage matches, playing each of the 30-minute straight time sessions as if it was an important game.
For anyone who misses the game and what it brings, the finale against Onalaska was a treat. Bolstered by some of the Avalanche players and the addition of junior Brady Baldwin just a short time after wrapping up play at the Legion baseball state championship in nearby Holmen, the Cheavers went toe to toe with the Hilltoppers in a game that entertained from the drop of the puck.
Circle the Bobber’s 2022 Winter Classic over the Christmas Holidays on your calendars. The Cheavers and Hilltoppers are not scheduled to cross paths in the regular season but Onalaska will be in the Christmas tournament for the first time and if they meet up with RWD Dec. 28-30 it could be a game fans won’t want to miss.
Once again, the RWD hockey program is using some off-season bonding traditions as a way to prepare both the new players and new leaders for the task ahead.
The team held is first unofficial function of the 2022-23 season with an early June get-together that included a tough introductory run but was generally a chance for the freshmen to meet the older players and some older players to fulfil their first duties as leaders for the team.
The get together included a three-mile run through and around the Devils Lake area which became a little more grueling as the event fell on one of the hotter days of the summer so far.
Seniors Caden and Carsen Brandt along with John Scott and junior Brady Baldwin will be the acting captains for the season and they made the newest team members comfortable at the get together.
Another of the annual bonding exercises is an annual trip to Superior which will be held this coming weekend. It will include a few exhibition matches on Friday, but the rest of the weekend will be spent canoeing and enjoying each other’s company.
The team generally plays in an annual summer event put on by the Middleton Cardinals Red Line Club but that event was cancelled this time around. Last summer the team also attended a weekend tournament in Onalaska.
The 2022-23 WIAA hockey season will officially begin Nov. 4 with the first team practice and the first game of the season will take place at RACA Nov. 22 against the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders.
The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team celebrated its most successful season since 2015-16 and said goodbye to a trio of seniors that have acted as leaders for two full seasons with the season ending banquet held at Monk’s at the Wilderness on Thursday (March 10).
The highlight of the night came near the end with the presentation of the team’s major awards. First-year Audrey Hanko received the team’s Most Improved Player Award, sophomore defender Zoey Udelohofen receiving the Sportsmanship plaque, senior defender Carson Blosenski accepting the Top Defensive Award and the MVP Trophy shared by linemates, senior Signe Begalske and junior Kayla Capener.
After enjoying some social time and a nice meal at the Monk’s downstairs banquet hall, Badger Lightning fundraising president Donald Coxe welcomed players and parents and thanked his fellow board members, John Gunnell (Vice President), Amber Selje (Treasurer), Micki Cone (Secretary) and Member at Large, David Benson.
Coxe encouraged parents to help out as new members will be needed for the Board and also ideas for fundraising which have helped the team with off season ice purchasing and buses for road games this past season.
Head Coach Rick Capener took over and first thanked his assistants, John Blosenski, Josh Cone and Katharyn Vander Schaaf. He also thanked Monk’s who not only hosted the banquet, but supplied the team’s ‘Away’ meals this season.
Before giving individual recognition to every team member, Capener paid tribute to the team’s three seniors, outlining the four-year path of the team during their time with the club. In 2018-19, the Lightning endured a tough 1-15 season, outscored 106-38 and combining on 71 penalty minutes.
The following season saw the team improve to 5-16 with both goals for and against rising, due in part to five extra games played. The team was outscored 161-66 with a steep rise in penalty minutes to 178 total.
Last season the pandemic limited the squad to 17 home games and an overall regular seaosn record of 6-11. The goals for and against differential was 0 (61-61) thanks to a 26-12 edge for the Lightning in third periods.
In 2021-22 the Lighting posted a 9-13 record with a 76-73 edge in scoring overall and 119 PIM, one more minute than their opponents.
“Every season was an improvement,” summed up the coach adding Carson Blosenski, Signe Begalske and Emily Gunnell faced a unique challenge . Since the team had no seniors last season they have been running the ship on and off the ice for two full seasons.
Before issuing the primary awards Capener introduced and highlighted the accomplishent of each player on his team.
With no graduations from the previous season, the Lightning grew from a two-line team to a three-line team over the summer with the addition of a trio of newcomers.
Kayla Garbacz (5g, 9ts, 12 PIM), Hanko (2g, 5 pts, 2 PIM) both made their presence felt quickly and helped add depth to the team while Reese Olson (9g, 19 pts, 8 PIM) was ultimately slotted into the team’s scoring line with Begalske and Capener and finished third on the team in scoring.
All three players received their first varsity letters, Olson also earning a hat trick medal.
Capener praised his four sophomores for not just their improvement but their ability to adapt and handle different positions when called on.
Katelyn Allen (3g, 8pts, 2 PIM) was asked to switch from defense to forward and Capener said she handled it well.
Madchen Ewig (2g, 6pts, 6 PIM, found her way as a contributing forward in her first year, switching from a defender for much of her years in youth hockey. Her and Udelhofen (2A, 2 PIM) both made the ultimate jump this season, patrolling the crease in a game apiece as sophomores.
Between the pipes, Alyssa Gada built on her impressive First-Year season posting eight of the team’s nine wins and kicking out 494 of 560 shots and collecting two shutouts.
Both Gada and Udelhofen received shutout medals. Allen and Udelhofen adding their first varsity letter. Ewig and Gada both added a second varsity letter.
The group that will step into the leadership role in 2022-23 were among the top competitors this past season both on offense and defense.
Eryn Benson (5g, 14 pts, 10 PIM) was once again the top points contributor from the blue line corps and Capener said he has developed a heavy and accurate shot from the blue line that will make here even more dangerous as a senior.
At the other end of the spectrum was Lily McPherson (3g, 10 pts, 10 PIM), not bad offense for a player described by Capener as a defensive defender.
Lani Selje (3g, 7 pts, 21PIM) was an aggreisive player also willing to play wherever needed for the Lightnng.
When it came to adversity, none faced more than Bella Bowden (1g, 8 PIM) who didn’t get a chance to suit up for the Lightning until January and soon after suffered a concussion that limited her to just six games.
Having proven herself as one of the fastest players in the conference the previous season, Capener said he is excited to see what Bowden can bring in a full season as a senior.
Mallory Ruland (8g, 9 pts, 0 PIM) is another player that showed her willingness to fill a different role this past season. After a season as a winger on the team’s scoring line as a sophomore, Ruland centered the second line and became a penalty killing specialist. Capener, who has challenged the team to lower its penalty minutes n 2022-23 was particularly proud of her penalty free season.
Kayla Capener (16g, 38pts, 20 PIM) was a junior captain and led by example becoming the second player in team history to reach the 100 point plateau.
She was on the ice in all situations and led the team in scoring for a second season.
All six players received their third varsity letter. Ruland and Capener both earned hat trick medals, Capener and Benson both adding playmaker (three assists) medals.
Before honoring his three seniors, the other 13 team members each gave a brief, personal thank you for the trio.
Capener said Emily Gunnell (2g, 3pts, 0 PIM) was “One of the smartest players I’ve coached,” and said dating back to her youth seasons, she was an unofficial team mother and she was another player that put up a penalty-free season this time around.
Blosenski (4g, 13 pts, 10 PIM) was a team captain in both her junior and seniors seasons. In both seasons, she was the team’s defensive anchor and played a big role on the penalty kill.
Begalske (13g, 30 pts, 8 PIM) came to the Lightning as a junior and her senior season saw her step up in a big way both as a leader and an offenisive threat, forming a great trio along with Capener and Olson.
Begalske received her second varsity level, Gunnell and Blosenski both picking up their fourth. Begalske added both a hat trick and playmaker medal to her list of accomplishments.
With the team slated to receive new jerseys in the fall, the three seniors were also each presented with their game jerseys from this past season.
Finally, all-Badger Conference honors were announced, Capener named to the Second Team and Begalske receiving Honorable Mention.
A few years ago, I was talking with a coach who said he wished there was an all-area team based on an all-City varsity team put together by a Madison newspaper.
I have wanted to do that but have been shy as it is completely opinion based and opens the door for criticism. This season in particular, the talent level is sky high on all four Sauk County varsity teams making it difficult to decide.
I have decided to put my selections out there and I invite others to put their own list together. Points, leadership, and consistency were the prime consideration in putting this together but there are no formulas because, well, I hate math.
I have four full lines of players and four goaltenders on the first three lines. I am picking a player of the year and future stars as well.
Let the debate begin
Jimmy D’s All-Saukhockey.info teams.
Nick Mast (Sauk Prairie Eagles) – Mast’s inclusion on here is a slam dunk. He put up 43 goals and 68 points this season to wrap up a massive four season (regular season only) total of 101 goals and 194 points. He is the first player to put up a three-digit goal total and his 194 points leaves him second behind only the amazing 240 point run of Riley Jelinek.
I attended a few pre-season Captain’s practices and Mast was a leader on the ice during those sessions as well as others and he is generous, working with youth players in town as well.
CJ Pfaff (RWD Cheavers) — Pfaff has always made his presence felt with RWD, but this season he led by example from start to finish. The line of Pfaff/Slaght/Caden Brandt was one of the most potent trios in the RWD team’s history and might have been overshadowed slightly in a season that saw some amazng top lines in Sauk (Mast/Mast/Peterson), Oregon and Madison Edgewood.
A constant scoring threat, Pfaff increased his value by being so effective in his own end and perhaps the best penalty killer in the conference.
Luke Mast (Sauk Prairie Eagles) — The lone non-senior on the first line, Luke Mast got the nod for me ahead of the other RWD players based on the playoff head-to-head meeting.
Luke outpointed his brother this season by a point and was among the state leaders in assists with 47. Of course, it helps having a guy like his older brother pulling the trigger on a lot of those passes. Luke will be the obvious leader for the Eagles next season.
Hakon Peterson (Sauk Prairie Eagles) – The Eagles showed in its playoff game in Reedsburg this season, it can hold on to a narrow lead through a period or more. Peterson was the defensive leader for this team and a key part of the offense, in particular on powerplays with 10 goals and 36 points.
Grant Marsich (RWD Cheavers) — Like Peterson, Marsich was effective at both ends of the ice. A physical defender he played with a chip on his shoulder and enjoyed getting under the skin of opponents. He was on the ice in every situation for the Cheavers this season.
This would be a nice defensive combo with Peterson and Marsich both bringing a hard-hitting physical presence and comfortable in any game situation. Perhaps, we will get a chance to see this combo later this month at the Senior’s tournament.
Cooper Oakes (RWD Cheavers) – A starting goaltender for the Cheavers since his first game as a first year, Oakes won 18 this season, giving him a total of 52 victories, more than double any player that has gone to the crease since RWD was formed.
Able to put up a big game any time, Oakes’ biggest improvement this season was consistency. A critic would be hard pressed to produce a bad game for Oakes in goal in 2021-22.
Erik Peterson (Sauk Prairie Eagles) — A lanky, aggressive forward who can put the puck in the net , Peterson was the perfect fit with the Mast brothers. Coming off a 12-week run with Team Wisconsin that wrapped up on the eve of the WIAA regular season, Peterson was in mid-season form out of the gate and he contributed 16 goals and 38 points for the Eagles.
Caden Brandt (RWD Cheavers) — Like Luke Mast in Sauk, Caden Brandt will inherit the reins of the RWD Cheavers in 2022-23 and he has been a key player on the squad since his sophomore season. He was among the scoring leaders as a sophomore and added 15 points to his totals with 26 goals and 46 points this past season. He has already put up 91 points in 67 varsity contests and he will be among the team’s best by the time he finishes his senior season.
Kayla Capener (Badger Lightning) — A look at playoff results shows a Badger Lightning team making a first-round exit again. However, the team took a mighty step forward, closing in on the .500 mark with nine wins, matching its best season since 2015-16. Capener, named to the all-state squads as a sophomore, played a big part of that for the Lightning, collecting 16 goals and 38 points and becoming just the second player on the team to cross the 100-point plateau with her senior season yet to come. Her consistency was the most impressive part of her game. She collected points in 17 of the team’s 21 games, including a six-point game and two five-pointers.
Carsen Brandt (RWD Cheavers) — For a guy that wasn’t even supposed to play this season, Carsen Brandt, Caden’s twin brother couldn’t have made a bigger impression this season. Many were nervous about the RWD blue line heading into this season, but the emergence of Marsich combined with the stability and great 200-foot game of Brandt and the amazing play of Cooper Oakes in goal played a big part in the second in conference finish of the Cheavers in the opening season of Badger West action. He will be as important as his brother in 2022-23 and both will for sure be wearing letters on their jerseys.
Carson Blosenski (Badger Lightning) — Small but growing numbers for the Badger Lightning put Blosenski in a unique and tough position of being a leader on this team as both a junior and senior. Despite a marked improvement in the offensive play, thanks in part to a player infusion that took the team from two to three lines this past season, the d-corps and goalie were kept busier than normal this season and Blosenski was up to the task.
Kaden Stracke (Sauk Prairie Eagles) — The fourth junior on the line, Stracke turned in another awesome season in goal for the Eagles. Stracke turned in 11 regular season wins and two more in the post season for the Eagles. Stracke edged out Brooks McInerney again this season, but McInerney was right there with five wins and both goaltenders picked up shutouts. As seniors, Stracke and McInerney will be relied on to backstop an Eagles that will be looking to replace a lot of goals from graduating players.
Trevor Slaght (RWD Cheavers) — This might be an unpopular spot for Slaght, and it says here he deserves to be on one of the upper lines as well. The two factors that pushed him down a bit – both completely out of his control – are a late start due to acl injury and just a stellar cast this season on all four teams.
While the injury prevented him from scoring a higher spot on this team it is also part of what made Slaght’s season so amazing. First, he returned weeks earlier than expected from the injury, a tribute to his hard work off ice and in 14 regular season games played, he put up 12 goals and 12 assists, turned, put the team’s top line on a new level and played a part in helping a 5-5 team to an 18-6 final regular season record.
Oliver Scanlan (Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds) — Scanlan’s role might have been a little obscured on a team that not only featured a small number of seniors but saw some of them sidelined due to injury or illness for much of the campaign.
Scanlan and senior linemate, Gabe Fitzwilliams scored 23 goals between them which doesn’t sound like much until you consider that’s nearly half of the Thunderbirds’ 49-goal total. Scanlan shared the team scoring lead, adding seven assists to his total. Playing on a young team subjected to the adversity this team faced couldn’t have been easy, but Scanlan showed up and gave his best all season.
Signe Begalske (Badger Lightning) — Another player on the Badger Lightning who served two seasons as a ‘senior’ team member (the team had no seniors in 2020-21), Begalske enjoyed a big spike in scoring playing as a linemate with Kayla Capener. Begalske totaled 13 goals and 30 points, nearly doubling her 17 points from the previous campaign. Begalske showed a willingness to dig the puck out of corners for Capener or be the trigger-player herself with a rugged but clean game – Begalske sat just four minor penalties this season, one more than the previous year.
Ty Thompson (RWD Cheavers) — Thompson deserves a spot on this list as recognition of a solid role as a defensive defender for the Cheavers. He seldom hit the game sheet as an old school defensive defenseman, there are no stats that highlight the role he plays. Often partnered with a defender that likes to jump into the offensive play, Thompson looks after the house and often, rides a charging forward off the puck or at least gives them a low percentage outside opportunity.
Carson Zick (Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds) — Zick was another bright spot on a team that struggled due in part to injuries and illness and other adversity this past season, especially in the second half of the season when he became a game sheet regular.
Zick, a sophomore, collected nine goals and 19 points to share the team lead and he will no doubt be a leader even as a junior for the Thunderbirds in 2022-23.
Andrew Schaetzl (Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds)/Alyssa Gada (Badger Thunder) — It’s impossible to separate Schaetzl and Gada who both played huge roles on teams that seldom held the margin on the shot clock.
Schaetzl was another of the key seniors on a young Thunderbirds team. He faced an average of 37 shots per game and a 4.77 Goals Against Average and a .867 Save Percentage don’t tell the whole story of a player that was the last line of defense on a team that found it difficult to stop the attack.
The team’s two biggest games were wins against the Monroe Cheesemakers to clinch fifth spot in the Badger West Conference. In those games, Schaetzl handled 61 of 66 shots to help lift his team to two of its four regular season victories.
Gada, a sophomore was in a similar situation with the Badger Lightning. While the team showed a marked improvement this season, Gada was still accustomed to facing more shots that the opposing keeper.
She appeared in 19.13 games for the Lightning and faced an average of about 30 shots per game. She notched seven of the team’s nine wins including a pair of goose eggs, tying her for second overall for the team with Gabby Christensen and Kelcie McElhenie. She might not approach the 11 clean sheets that Jamie Dutton put up as a Lightning tender, but Gada still has two more seasons to make her mark in the blue paint.
Tomas Korndorfer (RWD Cheavers) – The Czech Republic exchange student was a huge surprise for the Cheavers, and he might have been the most dangerous player in the County this season inside of the opposition blue line. Almost all his goals were the highlight-reel type as he managed to often put it into the smallest openings. Korndorfer ripped 15 goals and 29 best, third best total on the team. With the arrival of Slaght near Christmas, Korndorfer combined with junior John Scott and sophomore Brady Baldwin to form a second high scoring line for RWD, a rarity in varsity hockey.
Micah Hanson (Sauk Prairie Eagles) — In what will likely be the final season of competitive hockey for the Division 1 Lacrosse recruit (Canisius College), Hanson put up 13 goals and 19 points. A special teams regular, 10 of Hanson’s goals came on powerplays, along with four assists. He also picked up an assist while shorthanded.
John Scott (RWD Cheavers)/Gabe Fitzwilliams (Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds – This decision was just too tough. The role Fitzwilliams played as a senior on Baraboo/Portage can’t be overlooked, but Scott enjoyed a breakthrough season and set himself up as a player that will be relied on heavily next season.
Fitzwilliams partnered with Oliver Scanlan to collect 18 points forming a dangerous combo on offense for a team that struggled to find the net. He came up big in big games, scoring five of his 12 goals in the four Thunderbird wins including the overtime game winner against Tomah/Sparta on the road in the T-Birds’ second game of the season.
Scott was a deadly triggerman, scoring 14 goals and 19 points, most of his goals coming on one timers from the top of the crease. He benefited from having his billet brother (Korndorfer) on his line, scoring five goals at the Monk’s Cheeseburger Classic, shortly after the line was formed. In the first 11 games he scored twice, adding another dozen in the second half. Not shy about getting into the physical play, watch for Scott to be a heart and soul player for the Cheavers in his senior season.
Logan DeMars (RWD Cheavers) — DeMars stepped up his play this past season and with the graduation of Marsich and Thompson, there will be big expectations from this lanky, physical defender who scored four goals and set up another half dozen this past season. DeMars, like Brandt, is a good 200-foot player, capable of carrying the puck and dish to potential goal scorers at the other end.
Eryn Benson (Badger Lightning) — Another junior that will be stepping into a leadership role, Benson is blessed with a powerful shot from the blue line, which helped her rack up five goals and 14 points for the Lightning this past season. She has made her presence felt since she was a first year, but this season’s 14 points showed a marked improvement in that area. On a team that spent a lot of time in its own end, Benson teamed with Blosenski to form a solid combo, limiting opposition chances.
Benson will be a key fixture on a Lightning team that will receive some valuable, but young additions in her senior season.
Honorable Mention – Who to Watch
Brady Baldwin (RWD Cheavers) — It’s hard to believe I couldn’t find a spot on these teams for this valuable player. In his first two seasons with RWD, Baldwin has put up 15 goals and another 15 assists and he was always on the ice with the game on the line. An agile and speedy skater he is equally comfortable as a setup man or a finisher.
Other RWD players to watch – Iszak Elder, Yevgeny Dedun and Trey Lariden
Luke Schweda (Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds) — A quick agile and physical player who has played both forward and defense, Schweda will be an anchor and a scoring threat for the Thunderbirds in his senior season).
Other Baraboo/Portage players to watch – Nathan Gneiser, Jordi Beale and Peyton Sloan.
Gunnar Nachreiner (Sauk Prairie Eagles) — Only in the lineup for 15 games this season, First year Nachreiner put up four goals and 12 points to finish sixth in team scoring. He is a good bet to be on one of the top lines in 2022-23 and beyond.
Other Sauk Prairie Eagles players to watch – Karsyn Banta, Ethan Tranel, Thor Peterson.
Bella Bowden/Mallory Ruland (Badger Lightning) — Limited to just a half dozen games and one goal this season, Bowden was one of the conference’s fastest skaters as a sophomore. In a perfect world, Bowden comes back for her senior season with something to prove and wreaks havoc on the Badger Conference.
Ruland also saw her points total dip a bit this past season playing on a different line. A potent sniper she found the net eight times though, which is one more than the previous season. As a senior leader she could combine with Bowden along with Capener and Reese Olson, who enjoyed a massive first season with nine goals and 19 points along with a host of younger and incoming players that will make the team bigger offensive threat.
Other Badger Lightning players to watch – Reese Olson, Lily McPherson, Kayla Garbacz.
Player of the Year – Cooper Oakes
This was an easier choice than I expected. That’s not to say there aren’t a host of candidates from all four teams.
What most fans saw was a goaltender that has had fans chanting his name since he played youth hockey add consistency to all the great attributes he had between the pipes. When the team got off to a slow start in the early games, it was the work of Oakes in the blue paint that kept games close. In previous seasons, his skills were on view in many games but there were games when the entire team, including Oakes were not on their game. He would be the first to agree with that assessment too.
This past season though, I am hard pressed to point to any games when the puck stopper wasn’t in perfect form.
What fans might not have seen – this was Oakes’ team this season. As a senior, he took the leadership role seriously, doing all he could to lead by example and not shy about playing bad cop when he thought it was necessary. If he didn’t think players were focused or pulling their weight, he was fine with letting them know. What made it ok was he didn’t expect any more out of his teammates than he expected out of himself.
Oakes is a three-sport athlete. He will move on to varsity baseball almost immediately, but his game is hockey. He will be playing junior hockey somewhere this fall and the team that lands him is lucky.
With two teams still competing from the Badger West Conference, it confirms the division’s status as one of the best in the state this season. It was a wild season with four teams boasting stellar lineups with key players in their final season of varsity play
Hockey is no different from any other varsity sport where seniors play a big role as leaders, but there is seldom a season with so many top-notch seniors playing in the same conference.
The last Sauk County based team, the Sauk Prairie Eagles had seven seniors in their lineup including top line forwards Nick Mast and Erik Peterson who both spend off season time with Team Wisconsin along with Micah Hanson, a top six forward and regular contributor who wrapped up a great final season before moving on to his primary sport in the fall as a division 1 lacrosse player. Defensively the team relied heavily on Hakon Peterson who did double duty, protecting his own end while contributing 13 goals to the offense as well. Porter Kreul showed leadership in a supporting and set up role. Forward Brody Wolfe and utility player Brandon Mittelsteadt were both limited in games played this season but made their presence felt whenever they were able to play.
Past Performance and the talent level of the incoming seniors and juniors made the Sauk Prairie Eagles a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, they came along in a season and in a conference filled with talent. The RWD Cheavers had a ton of senior talent as well while the Edgewood Crusaders are among the Division 1 Final Four while the Oregon Panthers will play in their division 2 Sectional final on Saturday. This was an amazing year for all four teams and the Badger West Conference overall.
The Eagles finished this season with a 19-5 record overall. All five of their defeats came against Badger West opponents – three against the Crusaders and twice against the Cheavers. Also, this was the third straight season the Eagles were eliminated in the Sectional semis. The first two were both against the Verona Wildcats who both times reached the State Championship game, winning in 2019-20 and finishing as runner up last season. Ironically, the Madison Edgewood Crusaders were Verona’s victim in the Sectional Championship game on both occasions.
The final Sauk County team remaining in the WIAA post season was sent to the sidelines Wednesday (Feb. 23) as the Sauk Prairie Eagles were shutout 6-0 by Section 3’s top seed, the Madison Edgewood Crusaders in the Sectional semifinals at La Bahn Arena in Madison.
The Eagles were looking to solve the Crusaders who wrapped up the first Badger West Conference crown without a loss, including two wins against them in regular season play.
The job got tougher quick as senior Parker Murn put the Crusaders on the board with the goal that turned into the game winner just 21 seconds into the match.
Crusaders added another three seconds away from the first period buzzer off the stick of senior Cody Menzel and that 2-0 cushion held up all the way to the final period.
The Crusaders held a narrow 8-7 edge in shots through the opening 17 minutes and ran it 19-13 by the end of a scoreless middle period.
The Eagles needed to find the mesh in the final period, but the Crusaders tightened its grip, limiting them to four shots while piling up four more goals to pad its margin.
The daggers were likely two goals scored 51 seconds apart giving the near a 4-0 cushion 5:37 into the final period. Menzel and senior Aidan Lenz fired those goals.
First years Matt Richter and Easton Kinsler both scored in the final seven minutes to wrap up the scoring and send the Crusaders to the Sectional Championship game Friday night against the Waunakee Warriors who moved on by knocking off two-time defending Sectional champion Verona Wildcats with a 2-1 margin at the Waunakee Ice Ponds, also on Sunday.
Eagles’ junior Kaden Stracke faced 31 shots in all, the Eagles firing 17 at sophomore Rowan White who stopped them all.
Winner will represent Section 3 at the WIAA State Championship tournament in Madison next week.
The Badger Lightning came up with its best effort of the season on the right night, but it wasn’t quite enough to garner the WIAA playoff upset on Friday (Feb. 1) as they fell 3-0 to the rival Cap City Cougars at Sun Prairie Ice Arena.
The Lightning served notice it was ready to step onto a plateau with the Badger Conference’s mid and upper pack teams this past season, pushing the Cougars, Viroqua Blackhawks, Icebergs (Stoughton area) and Rock County Fury to close decisions, but ultimately falling short in every contest.
Inspired by a game just a couple weeks prior when the Lightning pushed the Cougars to overtime before ultimately succumbing 2-1, the six seeded Lightning entered playoff rematch ready and primed for an upset win.
Out of the gate, the Lightning took it to the Cougs, outshooting them in a tight opening period by a 5-4 margin, but both teams were scoreless through the first 17 minutes.
Sophomore Keegan Sanderfoot fired an unassisted regular strength goal halfway through the second period and added two more, both on the only two powerplays the Cougars had in the contest – one in the second period and the other in the third.
Cougars’ junior Izzy Hahn stopped all 29 shots the Lightning put her way and Lightning sophomore Alyssa Gada stopped 23 of 26 for the Lightning.
Unfortunately, the loss ended the season for the 9-14 Lightning while the Cougars (12-11-1) advanced to the WIAA Section 3 semi-finals at Viroqua on Wednesday (Feb. 23) against the host Blackhawks who moved into the round with an 11-0 win against the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers.
The loss was especially tough for the team’s three seniors: Carson Blosenski, Signe Begalske and Emily Gunnel.
The other semi will match the top seeded Metro Lynx who enjoyed a first-round bye against the fourth seeded Icebergs who earned 3-1 win against number five Rock County Fury. That game will also be on Wednesday.
Both winners will move into the Sectional Championship game at Sun Prairie Ice Arena Saturday at 7 p.m. for one of four Sectional Championship spots in the State tournament next week.
The WIAA hockey post season has to be the most exciting, but also the most heartbreaking time of the hockey season. With my own coverage of four Sauk County teams, there was plenty of both.
First, the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds came up with what had to be their grittiest and best defensive effort for 34 minutes against the RWD Cheavers. For seniors like Oliver Scanlan, Gabe Fitzwilliams and in particular, goaltender Andrew Schaetzl among others they clearly saved their best for last and it was tough the game got away from them down the stretch against an RWD team that seemed to be on a misson. Another regular contributor was senior forward Zach Huffaker.
It was a tough season from the start for the Thunderbirds with illness and injury among the contributing factors — three Thunderbird seniors — Kyle Poole, Luna Larson and Charlie Gibbs unforunately combined to appear in just 17 games.
A couple nights later and again, one of the Sauk County teams was leaving with heads low no matter what the final. The Eagles shrugged off a couple regular season losses against the Cheavers, using a key span in the middle period to put up four goals and then hold off a desperate RWD team through the game’s second half.
For RWD, a group of players that have played varsity minutes since their freshman year – senior goaltender Cooper Oakes who will likely hold most of his team goaltending records for several seasons. Senior forward CJ Pfaff has had a great run. His grit and ability to kill time or find space when none seemed available made him a player that had to be on the ice in any close game. Senior forward Trevor Slaght, one of the best skaters around. It’s no coincidence, the team’s great 14-2 run that started in mid-December started right around the time Slaght made his surprisingly early return from an acl injury.
Another surprise, the play of senior forward Tomas Korndorfer who was likely the team’s best sniper and played a part in giving the team two top lines 1A and 1B.
On the blue line the tireless defensive play of senior Ty Thompson the team’s hardest hitter and Grant Marsich, also a physical force with a heavy shot and a knack for getting under the skin of his opponents.
Depth forwards Carter Scully, Mitch Henke and Malachi Strompolis-Salama who made the most of every second they played for the varsity team and helped in a way many didn’t see – contributing their leadership and winning attitude to create an amazing competitive season for the players that will carry that into the future of the RWD program.
Official results are not available as this is written but a third Sauk County team wrapped up its season with a tough 3-0 defeat at Sun Prairie Ice Arena against the host Cap City Cougars.
It was a different Lightning team that walked onto the ice there than the one that succumbed 8-0 a few years ago. Granted, the Cougars are a younger team this season, but the three Lightning seniors – Carson Blosenski, Signe Begalske and Emily Gunnel spent two seasons leading this team because there were no seniors on a short-staffed team last season.
It says here, the Lightning will win its first playoff game in several seasons a year from now…it will be on home ice and the three players who are leaving the Lightning will deserve some credit for it.
An official story on the game played Friday in Sun Prairie will appear on this facebook page later this weekend.
This is the first of a number of editorial type stories that will be posted in the next few days/weeks. One thing about the end of the hectic varsity season, it will give me a chance to say and thank a lot of people that I just haven’t had the time to do yet.
But, for now, please join me in cheering on the Sauk Prairie Eagles. Let’s hope the third time is the charm at the Sectional semis and this is the team that can find a way past the Badger West Conference Champion Madison Edgewood Crusaders.
For a third straight season, the Sauk Prairie Eagles have advanced to the WIAA Sectional semi-finals and for a second straight season it came at the expense of the rival RWD Cheavers by a 5-3 margin at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) Thursday (Feb. 17) night.
The second period, in particular a stretch of 6:08 that saw a 2-1 RWD lead turned into a 5-2 Eagles’ cushion. Of the four goals, Eagles produced one on a powerplay and another shorthanded.
The Eagles held 18-6 shots lead through the period and carried that lead into the final 17 minutes. A desperate Cheavers team threw all it had at the Eagles in the final frame, but the Eagles showed a proficiency in playing a simple defensive game and breaking up numerous RWD rushes through the neutral zone.
The final seven minutes the Cheavers found more success penetrating the Eagles’ end and it paid off with the second goal of the night for senior Trevor Slaght with 6:37 to play. That left plenty of time for two more, but the Eagles again mostly kept RWD chances to the outside.
Senior Micah Hanson fired the game’s first goal, from senior defender Hakon Peterson 3:39 into the game but RWD struck back with two in 55 seconds from seniors Tomas Korndorfer and Slaght to grab its first lead 7:17 into the contest.
Senior Grant Marsich, junior Caden Brandt and sophomore Brady Baldwin each contributed an assist on the first period markers.
Peterson fired a seeing-eye slapper from the blue line that found its way past a host of bodies in front and past senior RWD goaltender Cooper Oakes who never saw it until it whizzed past him 92 seconds into the middle period. Senior Hanson and junior Luke Mast had the assists.
RWD took a penalty, but the Eagles had also assessed one seconds later. Shortly after the Cheavers’ penalty expired, Nick Mast notched an unassisted shorty to put his team in front to stay.
Senior Erik Peterson doubled the Eagles’ lead from the Mast brothers, senior Nick, and junior Luke just over three minutes later and an Eagles’ powerplay made it a three-goal cushion just under three minutes after that one.
Hanson fired the power play tally with an assist for Luke Mast.
The win pushed the Eagles’ overall season record to 19-4 on the season and they advance to the Sectional semis against the Madison Edgewood Crusaders who moved on with a narrow 3-2 edge against the Sun Prairie Cardinals.
As this is written the date and time are still TBA but the game will likely be Tuesday night at La Bahn Arena in Madison.
The other Sectional semi-final will match the second seeded Waunakee Warriors against number three Verona Wildcats who are also two-time defending Sectional 3 Champs.
The Cheavers had one of its most successful seasons come to a sudden end. Even at 5-5 just before Christmas, it was a win against the same Eagles that sent the team on a 14-1 run heading into this one.
Several RWD seniors played their final varsity contest, but at least a few will likely take part in the seniors tournament in a few weeks with the luxury of having some of the Eagles’ rivals as teammates.
The Badger Lightning finished a bit under .500 at 9-13 this past season, it’s best campaign since 2014-15.
The girls however face a tough task ahead, moving into the post season against the Cap City Cougars Friday (Feb. 18) at Sun Prairie Ice Arena at 7 p.m.
While they managed nine wins, the Cougars remain a tough nut to crack for the locals who fell 6-1 at the Ice Pond in Waunakee Dec. 6, but came up with a much tougher challenge on home ice at Pierce Park Pavilion Feb. 3 taking the Cougars to overtime before falling 2-1.
That bodes well for a Lightning team that has faced the Cougars 21 times dating back to the 2011-12 season and dropped 20. The one and only win for the Lightning was the second meeting, a decade ago (Jan. 12, 2012).
The Lightning earned a 3-2 edge with goals from Leigh Stawinoga and Hannah Juckett and the game winner off the stick of Rachel Pawlak. Current Lightning seniors Carson Blosenski, Signe Begalske and Emily Gunnel were second graders, possibly playing for mite teams in their respective towns.
But while the history has been rough against this opponent, the future looks great for the squad. They will still be a definite underdog heading into this match as a six seed against a three seed, but this season and that last performance, just a few weeks ago should give them at least a bit of jump in their step heading to a rink that has never been friendly.
The team has seen its numbers rise this season and the talent level of the incoming players this season sees a deeper and more balanced attack.
Junior Kayla Capener, who reached a milestone with her 100th varsity point in the final game of the regular season is the offensive leader as she was a year ago, with 16 goals and 38 points. Begalske has been right with Capener for much of the campaign, putting up 13 goal and 30 points. While they have been key contributors on most nights, first-year Reese Olson has made her presence felt with nine goals and 19 points.
A secret weapon for the Lightning is junior Bella Bowden who missed all but six games this season. She showed explosive speed last season, pouncing on loose pucks in the neutral zone and leaving defenders in her wake. She scored her first goal in the final game of the season and her presence could be a difference maker in close game.
If the offense is set up junior Mallory Ruland is player that can make her presence felt with a hard shot and quick release. While Bowden is dangerous on the rush, Ruland is best when she can position herself and one-time a pass home.
Other names have shown up on game sheets on a more regular basis in the second half of the season including first year Kayla Garbacz,
Defensively, Blosenski and junior Eryn Benson make their presence felt at both ends and the key on defense is sophomore goaltender Alyssa Gada who is accustomed to facing a lot of shots. She recorded seven of the team’s nine wins and collected two shutouts, tying her for second on the all-time list with Gabby Christensen and Kelcie McElhenie.
The season has already been a huge success no matter what happens on Friday, but don’t count the Lightning out. They have nothing to lose, and they will be ready for the challenge.