Olson goal lifts Lightning past WVU 4-3

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

Reese Olson lifted the Badger Lightning to its first and only lead of the contest Tuesday night with 31 seconds to play at the South Wood County Recreation Center in Wisconsin Rapids and the team held on for a 4-3 edge against the host Wisconsin Valley Union.  

Reese Olson fired the game winner for the Badger Lightning with 31 seconds to play in the contest. Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer

The Lightning rallied back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to grab the win, boosting its WIAA season record to 2-1. 

Down by a pair after a period, the Lightning struck back in the middle period with goals from senior Lani Selje and junior Katelyn Allen 31 seconds apart and teams headed to the final period even at 2-2. 

First year Kyran Merrell collected assists on both goals and senior Kayla Capener helped on the second.  

Senior Sonia Dissanayake and first year Lily Cichy scored the first period Union goals and Dissanayake put her squad in front again 4:14 into the final period but Lightning senior Mallory Ruland pulled her team even again with an unassisted goal 3:10 later. 

That set the stage for Olson who took a feed from Capener before scoring the game winner.  

In goal, junior Alyssa Gada stopped 19 of 22 to grab her second win of the season while the Lightning sent 28 shots at junior Grace Lawrence. 

The meeting was the first between the Union and Lightning since 2016 and the Lightning evened the all-time series at 3-3-2 with their first win against the Stevens Point/Wisconsin Rapids cooperative effort since 2012. 

Lightning will try to stay hot when they return to Badger Conference play Saturday with a trip to Mandt Community Center in Stoughton Saturday (Dec. 3) for a 2:15 p.m. puck drop against the Icebergs and then travel to Sun Prairie Ice Arena Monday night for another Badger Conference match against the Cap City Cougars.  

Next home game for the Lightning will be on Friday when the Rock County Fury visits for yet another Badger Conference contest at Pierce Park Pavilion

Gada shutout leads Lightning past Golden Beavers

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team broke into the win column Saturday thanks in part to a 22-save shutout for junior goaltender Alyssa Gada and a goal from senior Mallory Ruland. 

That turned out to be the game winner and the lone goal in a 1-0 win for the Lightning.  

After Ruland’s goal, set up by first-year Kyran Merrell and sophomore Katelyn Allen with 4:46 to play in the opening period, it was all up to the goaltenders – Gada with the goose egg and Beaver Dams’ Emily Smedema who kicked out 35 of 36 at Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo.  

The win boosted the Lightning record to 1-1 while the Golden Beavers were playing their first game of the season. The game was the first Badger Conference game of the season for both teams. 

The Lightning will be back in action Tuesday, hitting the road for the first time this season to take on the Wisconsin Valley Union at South Wood County Recreation Center in Wisconsin Rapids in a 5 p.m. contest. The Lightning will stay on the road for three games with confrerence matches on Saturday at Stoughton’s Mandt Community Center against the Icebergs and a visit to Sun Prairie Ice Arena Monday Dec. 5 to play the Cap City Cougars.  

Next home game for the locals will be another conference tilt against the Rock County Fury at Pierce Park Pavilion Dec. 9. 

Alyssa Gada stopped everything the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers could fire against her in collecting her first win and first shutout of the 2022/23 season Saturday at Pierce Park Pavilion. Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer
Mallory Ruland (13) handles the puck off a faceoff Saturday with some help from teammate and fellow senior Lani Selje.(25). Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer

Second period flurry lifts Warhawks past Lightning

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning varsity girls opened its regular season Saturday afternoon with a tough test at Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo.  

The first Sauk County team to take the ice in anger, the Lightning, made up of players from Baraboo, Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells, Sauk Prairie and Elroy High Schools came up short in a 6-1 loss against the Arrowhead Warhawks. 

The score didn’t indicate the effort in the contest as the Lightning, suddenly blessed with three solid lines and a capable group on the blue line and between the pipes, outshot their guests by a 26-24 margin. 

In the first period in particular the locals held a 12-6 edge in shots, but most of their opportunities were from 20 feet or further away and easily handled by Arrowhead junior Katie Friel.  

The Warhawks scored once in the opening period but put a stranglehold on the contest in a stretch of 2:31 in the middle period when they found the mesh four times, turning a 2-0 edge into a lopsided 6-0 decision.  

The Badger Thunder finally hit paydirt in the final minute of the period when a frantic scramble in front of Friel saw senior linemates Bella Bowden and Kayla Capener along with sophomore teammate Reese Olson all banging away at a loose puck on top of the crease before Bowden finally lifted it over Friel. 

The team looked solid in the faceoff dot with senior Mallory Ruland and sophomore Kayla Garbacz finding success throughout the contest.

Third period was played mostly in the middle of the ice, both teams adding just one more shot to their respective team total. 

Junior Alyssa Gada kicked out 18 shots for the Lightning who will go back to work and prepare for another home game Friday (Nov. 25 against the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers, a team it has never lost to. 

Bella Bowden (1) gets a chance in close against Arrowhead goaltender Katie Friel. Behind the goal is senior forward Kayla Capener. — Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer

JV Warhawks 8 JV Lightning 2 

Two seasons ago, the Badger Lighting varsity team consisted of two lines and the 2022-23 version not only opened the season with three solid lines of forward and defense, but enough extra players to schedule some junior varsity games this season.  

First-year Kyran Merrell, a defender collected both Lightning goals in the contest and Coach Capener also mentioned first year forwards Elizabeth Hagg and Emma Diehl for promising starts to the season as well while first year goaltender Claire Scates made her high school debut between the pipes. 

The jv squad will also be in action Friday against Beaver Dam and there is a junior varsity only match against conference rival Cap City Cougars in Madison early the following week. 

Kayla Capener (4) and Reese Olson work together against an Arrowhead player to grab a loose puck during action in the WIAA season opener for both teams at Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo on Saturday. Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer

Sauk County varsity teams rolling into season

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

Here we go! 

The highly anticipated 2022-23 varsity High School hockey season is just days away from facing off.  

For the Sauk County teams – RWD Cheavers, Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds and Sauk Prairie Eagles in the Badger West Conference and the Badger Lightning varsity team from the Badger Conference, weeks of captain’s practices turned into actual practices in recent days with the regular season kicking off as early as Saturday. 

The Lightning, looking to make a jump into the middle or upper tiers of the Badger Conference this season, will be first out of the gate, entertaining the Arrowhead Warhawks on Saturday.  

In terms of personnel, this is probably the biggest Lightning team in a decade or more. Two seasons ago, the team fielded exactly two lines, hoping the COVID epidemic or any other illness or injury wouldn’t affect its team that had to have every player available. 

Two seasons later, the Lightning has grown to a full 27-player roster which means junior varsity games will be included on the schedule. 

After finishing last season with a 9-13 record last season, the Lightning has its eyes on .500 or better this time around and will get an interesting test out of the gate against a Warhawks team it hasn’t faced off against in a while. 

First Badger Conference match will be Saturday Dec. 3 against the Icebergs at Mandt Community Center in Stoughton and first home league game will be Dec. 9 against the Rock County Fury from Janesville/Beloit. 

Among the leaders for the Lightning this season is an awesome group of seniors including Kayla Capener who garnered all-state recognition last season, Bella Bowden, one of the fastest skaters around looking for a bounce back after injuries and adversity kept her out of the lineup much of last season and Mallory Ruhland, a gifted goal scorer who travels all the way from Elroy to suit up.  

In goal, the Lightning has junior Alyssa Gada who has already shown herself to be one of the best keepers in the conference. With improvements all around likely limiting the shots she will face, watch for Gada to have a huge campaign. 

Sauk Prairie Eagles – of the local varsity teams, the Eagles went the furthest last season, falling in Sectional semi-finals against the Madison Edgewood Crusaders in Sectional semifinals. 

Several graduations affect the team both on offense and defense, but there are some key players returning as well, including Luke Mast who finished among the state leaders last season with 27 goals and 69 points. In three years on the varsity team, Mast has racked up 53 goals and 128 points. 

The team has plenty of experience at the most important position as well, seniors Kaden Stracke and Brooks McInerney both veterans of the high school game in goal. 

Other seniors include Cole Scallon and Landon Clary, and Head Coach David Lohrei has done an amazing job in his seasons with the team and is able to provide a game plan based on whatever strengths the team has. 

The Eagles will open the regular season with a pair of road games, in Onalaska to play the Avalanche Tuesday (Nov. 22) and at Bob Suter’s Capitol Ice Arena to face Middleton on Nov. 26. 

First home game will also be the team’s first Badger West Conference game, taking on the Oregon Panthers Nov. 29. 

RWD Cheavers – The Cheavers look solid at all positions despite graduating a goaltender who started nearly every game for the team in all four seasons he attended RAHS. 

Cooper Oakes has established every record of note for Cheavers goaltenders, but junior Alex Griebe put up some amazing numbers as a junior varsity keeper last season and Head Coach Neil Mattson is confident, he can be relied on to take the team to the next level.  

The Cheavers graduated a small but amazing group of seniors last season but led by the Brandt bothers, forward Caden and defenseman Carsen, the team looks solid both up front and on the blue line.  

Caden has scored 58 goals and collected 91 points through his first three campaigns and could be among the state scoring leaders this time around. Carsen showed his physical and mental toughness last year when he decided to put off shoulder surgery and played through some excruciating pain in the late season games. He enters this season healthy and ready to go. 

John Scott is coming off not only his best season with the Cheavers, scoring 14 goals, but also an awesome season as a running back for WDHS football which has college scouts from two different sports knocking on his door. 

Other key contributors among the seniors are hardnosed forwards Caleb Eastman, Yevgeny Dedun and Conner Putz along with defenders Nate Stando and Logan DeMars, both regulars on the blue line along with Carsen Brandt last season.  

RWD will have to hit the ground running with a tough opening to the regular season, including its annual duel against the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders, opening the season at RACA on Tuesday, followed up by a return visit to the four-team tournament in Somerset on Friday/Saturday. 

RWD will open against the Eau Claire North Huskies Friday.  

Following that, the Cheavers will head into a stretch of five straight Badger West Conference contests, taking it immediately to the halfway mark of the conference season. 

Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds – Thunderbirds had its struggles last season with illness, injury and adversity playing a key part.  

Positive reinforcement from Head Coach David Clark and great leadership from forwards Oliver Scanlan and Gabe Fitzwilliams and goaltender Andrew Schaetzl kept the team in a lot of games. 

Clark has moved away from Baraboo, but Tony Bluske who has been with the team for several seasons and knows the players well, will be a perfect fit as the new mentor. 

Like Griebe with RWD, Burke Schweda showed his potential in both junior varsity and varsity games last season, and he will give the team stability in the blue paint this year and into the future. Brother Luke Schweda, a hard working forward with a nose for the net will be among the senior leaders as well as others. 

The Thunderbirds will kick off the regular season on the road, taking on Monona Grove Silver Eagles Tuesday and will play its first three games on the road, including a tough conference opener against defending champion Madison Edgewood on Nov. 28. 

First home game for the Baraboo/Portage fans will be the first of three straight at home Nov. 29 against Tomah/Sparta. 

Banquet wraps up awesome Lightning season

Members of the Badger Lightning varsity hockey posed for a team photo at the end of their season ending banquet at Monk’s at the Wilderness on Thursday night. Jim den Hollander Photo

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

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.

FIRST-YEARS

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. 

SOPHOMORES

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. 

JUNIORS

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. 

SENIORS

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. 

Badger Lightning coaches and major award winners include from left: Kathryn Vander Schaaf (Asst. Coach); Josh Cone (Asst. Coach); Signe Begalske (Co-MVP); Audrey Hanko (Most Improved Player); Carson Blosenski (Best Defense); John Blosenski (Asst. Coach); Zoey Udelhofen (Sportsmanship); Kayla Capener (Co-MVP) and Rick Capener (Head Coach).

Jimmy D’s all-Saukhockey.info varsity team

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

Jimmy D’s Notes

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. 

First Line  

Forwards  

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. 

Defense  

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. 

Goaltender  

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.  

Second Line  

Forwards  

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. 

Defense  

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.  

Goaltender  

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. 

Third Line  

Forwards 

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. 

Defense  

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. 

Goaltender(s) 

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. 

Fourth Line  

Forwards  

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. 

Defense. 

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. 

Lightning turn in great effort but fall short against Cougars

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

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. 

Members of the Badger Lightning have a quiet minute amongst themselves before shaking hands after their final game of the 2021-22 varsity WIAA season at Sun Prairie Ice Arena Friday night.

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. 

Badger Lightning varsity players head off the ice following a heartbreaking 3-0 loss in Sun Prairie Friday night.

Badger Lightning hopes the future is now

WIAA Varsity Girls Regional Finals Preview

BADGER LIGHTNING @ CAP CITY COUGARS

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

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.  

Kayla Capener, kneeling in front became the second Badger Lightning player to hit the 100-point plateau with an assist in the final game of the WIAA regular season. Team members with Capener include (in no particular order). Bella Bowden, Zoey Udelhofen, Emily Gunnell, Audrey Hanko, Madchen Ewig, Lani Selje, Katelyn Allen, Mallory Ruland, Kayla Garbacz, Lily McPherson, Carson Blosenski, Eryn Benson, Reese Olson and Signe Begalske. Absent from the photo is goaltender Alyssa Gada.

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. 

Badger Lightning Junior captain Kayla Capener
Badger Lightning Senior captain Signe Begalske
Badger Lightning Senior Captain Carson Blosenski
Badger Lightning Head Coach Rick Capener

Lightning downs Raiders for best finish since 2014-15

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning snapped a four-game losing streak and entered the post season on a winning note with a 4-1 decision against the Medford Raiders at Pierce Park Pavilion Friday (Feb. 11). 

The Raiders, defeated by the Lightning three times this season, did not make this one easy, carrying a 1-0 lead out of the first period and even at 1-1 heading to the final 17-minutes.  

Patience paid off for the Lightning who owned a 39-14 edge in shots including an overwhelming 21-1 edge through the middle period.  

The Raiders held a slim 7-6 edge through the opening period and counted the game opener in the third minute with a goal from junior Eryka Seidl.  

Alyssa Gada returned from illness an stopped all but one of the 14 Raiders shots including everything fired at her in the final 47 minutes of the contest. 

Junior Bella Bowden recently added to the Lightning lineup connected for her first goal 47 seconds into the second period from first years Kayla Garbacz and Reese Olson and teams were still even heading to the third. 

Junior Mallory Ruland notched the game winner, her first of two in the period and seventh of eight regular season goals 2:36 into the period, from junior Kayla Capener who became just the second Lightning player to hit the 100-point plateau and senior Signe Begalske. 

Junior defender Eryn Benson added some insurance a couple minutes later and Ruland rounded it out at the 6:38 mark, both with unassisted goals. 

The win boosted the Lightning finished the regular season for the Lightning with a 9-13 record, the most wins for the team since the 2014-15 season. 

The Lightning moves on to the WIAA Playoffs, playing in a section that includes all seven teams from the Badger Conference. The local squad will travel to Sun Prairie for one of four Regional Championship matches in its section on Thursday against the Cap City Cougars – start time still to be determined. 

Winner will advance to the Sectional semifinals on Feb. 22 against either the second seeded Viroqua Blackhawks or seventh seeded Beaver Dam Golden Beavers. 

Hilltoppers dominate Lightning again at Pierce Park

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Onalaska Hilltoppers continued its domination of the Badger Lightning varsity hockey team with an 8-0 win at Pierce Park Pavilion on Tuesday (Feb. 8). 

The Hilltoppers also defeated the Lightning 7-0 at the Omni Center in Onalaska earlier this season and have won 14 in a row against the local squad dating back to 2012. 

The Lightning has turned in some solid efforts against teams that have had their number this season, including a recent game with the Cap City Cougars that went to overtime, but the Hilltoppers dominated the host team from the opening faceoff in this one.  

Sophomore Madchen Ewig took a turn in the blue paint with regualar goaltender Alyssa Gada unable to play. Ewig was easily the busiest player in this game as the Hilltoppers outshot the Lightning 45-15, including a massive 22-3 edge in the middle period when they turned a 2-0 cushion into a comfortable 6-0 margin.  

Senior Kiya Bronston enjoyed a two-goal, five-point game for the Hilltoppers and senior Lydia Walz also fired a pair. 

The loss dropped the Lightning to 8-13 in regulation period and extended its current skid to four games. The Lightning will wrap up its regular season Friday playing host to the Medford Raiders at Pierce Park Pavilion. The Lightning played the Raiders twice at an event in Beaver Dam, Jan. 29 winning both.