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.
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.
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.
The Baraboo Thunderbirds got a standout effort in goal and came up with one of its best offensive nights as well but fell just short against the visiting Aquinas/Holmen Avalanche at Pierce Park Pavilion on Tuesday (Feb. 8) night.
Thunderbirds came up with 30 shots in the game, one of its best totals this season, but counted heavily on senior Andrew Schaetzl in goal who stopped 51 of 54 Avs’ shots to keep it close.
Schaetzl stopped 19 of 21 in the opening period to allow the Thunderbirds a chance to come out of the opening 17-minutes down just 2-1 despite a 21-7 edge on the shots board for the visitors.
Juniors Tanner Bass and Ethan Meyer scored 11 seconds apart to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead early in the contest, but Thunderbirds senior Oliver Scanlan converted a feed from senior Gabe Fitzwilliams to cut the lead in half later in the period.
First year Avs’ forward Casey Keane restored the two-goal margin early in the second period but once again the T-Birds cut into the lead, this time Fitzwilliams pulling the trigger with an assist for sophomore Carson Zick.
Teams battled through an even third period, the Avalanche with a narrow 14-13 edge in shots, the final one an empty net goal for junior Evan Johnson nine seconds before the final buzzer.
Thunderbirds fell to 4-19 with the loss to the Avalanche who boosted its own record to 9-14.
Thunderbirds will play one final regular season game Thursday in Waupun against the host Warriors on Thursday (Feb. 10) before opening the post season on Tuesday in Lake Delton against the RWD Cheavers.
The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds wrapped up its Badger West against the toughest team, the Madison Edgewood Crusaders wrapping up a 7-0 shutout win on Thursday at Pierce Park Pavilion.
The Crusaders clinched the first Badger West Conference championship with a lopsided win against the Monroe Cheesemakers Thursday (Jan. 3) then closed in on a perfect conference season with the win in Baraboo the following night.
Despite the loss, Andrew Schaetzl earned star honors, stopping 40 shots and allowing just three on 25 shots through the final two periods.
The Crusaders dominated the opening 17-minutes, scoring four unanswered goals with a 22-5 margin on the shot clock.
It was more of the same through the final two, but Schaetzl kept it respectable as the Crusaders rolled to a 47-12 edge on the shot counter.
The loss dropped the Thunderbirds to 4-18 in regular season play and wrapped up a 2-8 Badger Conference record, good enough for fifth place.
Thunderbirds will play its final home game Tuesday against the Avalanche Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Pierce Park Pavilion, wrapping up its schedule on the road in Waupun two nights later.
The Crusaders boosted its record to 9-0 and will look to close out a perfect first season in the Badger West at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) on Thursday night.
There’s one more game to go, but the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds clinched fifth place in the Badger West Conference with an 8-4 win at Monroe against the host Cheesemakers at Stateline Ice and Community Expo (SLICE) on Tuesday (Feb. 1).
The win shows that a team plagued with injuries and illness through much of the season could be taking shape in time for what will be a tough post season run.
Last time the new conference rivals met, the Thunderbirds claimed a 2-1 win at Pierce Park Pavilion Dec. 18. The win at SLICE saw the Thunderbirds coming up with its best offensive total this season.
Cheesemakers hit the scoreboard first and carried a 3-2 lead into the middle period. It was 4-2 7:50 from the end of the middle period, but it was all T-Birds after that.
Four goals in the final 7:03 had the Baraboo/Portage squad up 6-4 and they added two more unanswered goals in the final period to put it away.
Senior Gabe Fitzwilliams paced the Thunderbirds’ attack with two goals and two assists, sophomore Carson Zick adding two goals and an assist and senior Oliver Scanlan contributing a goal and two assists.
Senior Zach Huffaker also scored a pair with the other Thunderbirds’ goal fired by junior Peyton Sloan. Sophomore Bodie Thompson and junior Monte Hartmann picked up assists.
Both teams fired 12 shots in the opening period, Thunderbirds with a 15-9 edge in the middle frame and senior goaltender Andrew Schaetzl stopped all 15 shots he faced to allow his team to pad its margin despite being outshot 15-10. Overall, Thunderbirds held a 37-36 edge in shots.
The win boosted Thunderbirds to 4-18 and 2-7 in Badger West Conference play. Thunderbirds were scheduled to wrap up conference play Friday (Feb. 4) on home ice against the Badger West Conference leading Madison Edgewood Crusaders.
That will leave two games next week, the final home contest against the Avalanche at 7 p.m. Tuesday and its final game on the road in Waupun two days later, followed by playoffs which will get underway the following week.
The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds broke out of a long skid with a 6-3 non-conference win at Pierce Park Pavilion against the visiting Viroqua Blackhawks on Jan. 18.
The T-Bird cranked up the offense firing a season high 48 shots against the Viroqua keeper while senior Andrew Schaetzl kicked out 28 of 31 in the Baraboo/Portage goal to help his team snap an eight-game losing streak and collect its first win in exactly a month.
Blackhawks hit the scoreboard first and carried a 1-0 lead into the middle period before the home side scored three straight. However, two Hawks’ goals in the final three minutes of the period had teams even at 3-3 heading to the third.
First year Nathan Gneiser scored the game winner 3:09 into the final period and he also ended up with a couple assists and sophomore Carson Zick picked up a set up on three goals. Juniors Kyle Buelow, Luke Schweda and Landon Olson had goals as well as seniors Gabe Fitzwilliams and Oliver Scanlan, both seniors also adding an assist. Senior Kyle Poole also had a helper in the contest.
The win boosted the team’s overall record to 3-14 but the assignments ahead will be tough as the Madison West Division leading Madison Edgewood Crusaders are scheduled to entertain the Thunderbirds on Jan. 20 and the Sauk Prairie Eagles will be in town on Jan. 25.
The Baraboo Thunderbirds grabbed leads twice but it was Milton Redbirds using a dominant final 17 minutes to rally for a 3-2 win at the Badger Challenge Saturday at the Waunakee Ice Pond.
Thunderbirds scored first and controlled the shot clock in both the first and second periods in the battle of fifth place teams from the Badger West and Badger East Conferences, but the score was even at 1-1 after the first and 2-2 heading to the third period.
Sophomore Carson Zick notched the first of the contest for the Thunderbirds 2:14 into the game, unassisted but senior Gannon Kilgora equalized or the Redbirds 66 seconds later. Baraboo held an 11-8 edge in shots in the period.
In the middle period the Thunderbirds scored first again, first-year Nathan Gneiser pulling the trigger with help from juniors Luke Schweda and Peyton Sloan.
Redbirds rallied to tie it again with a goal from sophomore Ty Johnson and Baraboo/Portage had the edge in shots again 10-8.
The Redbirds flipped the tables in the final frame, outshooting the Thunderbirds 15-5 and junior Colter Thorn gave the Badger East squad its lone win of the day with his goal in the period’s second minute.
Senior goaltender Andrew Schaetzl turned in a 28-save effort for Thunderbirds who unfortunately saw its losing streak stretched to eight games with the loss.
The local squad returns to action Tuesday with a home game against the Viroqua Blackhawks starting at 7:30 p.m.
The RWD varsity Cheavers continued its winning streak and wrapped up a season sweep against the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds with a 5-1 win at Pierce Park Pavilion on Tuesday (Jan. 11).
The Cheavers extended its current winning streak to eight games to eight games and nearly a month with the win, outshooting a game Thunderbirds squad 39-21.
Senior C.J. Pfaff scored his first of a pair unassisted to open the scoring with the only goal of the opening period 2:44 from the buzzer.
The Cheavers added two more in the second before senior Oliver Scanlan notched the lone T-Birds marker late in the period with help from junior Luke Schweda and sophomore Carson Zick.
Senior Trevor Slaght scored the game winner, his fifth in seven games since returning to the Cheavers from injury, converting a pass from junior Caden Brandt 5:32 into the middle frame and Junior John Scott stayed hot, scoring his ninth and seventh since the Monk’s tournament, unassisted later in the period.
Third period goals from Pfaff and senior defenseman, Ty Thompson widened the gap for the Cheavers and senior Cooper Oakes stopped all but one of the 21 shots he faced in goal for RWD.
Senior Andrew Schaetzl kicked out 34 shots in goal for the Thunderbirds.
The win was also the third straight Badger West Conference win for the Cheavers who now sit at 5-2 with three games to play. The Cheavers’ overall record is 12-5.
The Thunderbirds have dropped its last seven and fall to 2-13 overall and 1-5 in the Conference.
RWD and Baraboo/Portage now head into the Badger Challenge as all six Badger West Conference teams will take on teams from the Badger East Conference at the Ice Pond in Waunakee on Saturday.
The Thunderbirds will face off against the Milton Red Raiders (5-7-1, 2-5-1 Badger East) at 2:30 p.m. while the Cheavers meet the Deforest Norskies (3-4-1, 2-3-1 Badger East) at 5 p.m.
The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds turned in some solid efforts but were unable to snap its losing streak in a couple games at a four-team holiday event hosted by Arrowhead Warhawks Dec. 29-30.
Playing at the Howard G. Mullett Ice Center in Hartland, the Thunderbirds dropped its opening contest 4-2 against the host Warhawks, then fell 2-0 in the Consolation final the following day against the Sheboygan Red Raiders.
In the opening game, sophomore Carson Zick pulled the T-Birds even at 1-1 from junior Peyton Sloan and first year Jordi Beale 4:49 from the first period buzzer. The Warhawks moved in front again though 38 seconds later and added another before the end of the opening period for a 3-1 cushion.
After a scoreless middle frame, senior Oliver Scanlan made it a one-goal game again 7:40 into the third with help from juniors Landon Olson and Luke Schweda. The Warhawks restored its two-goal edge a couple minutes later.
The close score flattered the Thunderbirds a bit, thanks to a standout effort in goal by senior Andrew Schaetzl who kicked out 33 of 37 in a game that saw the Thunderbirds outshot by a 37-8 margin.
The other game was also close, the Homestead Highlanders earning a 4-3 edge against the Red Raiders. With that result, the Thunderbirds moved on to play Sheboygan while the Highlanders moved on to face the Warhawks the following day.
Thunderbirds managed to keep the shots a little closer, but the Red Raiders held a 32-18 edge overall. But the result was not clinched until the Red Raiders nailed its second of the game with 1:46 to play. The game winner was scored two seconds from the end of the second period.
The Championship game saw the host Arrowhead squad taking a 3-1 win against Homestead.
The loss against Sheboygan was the fourth in a row for the Thunder who fell to 2-9 on the regular season.
Thunderbirds head into the New Year with a quick flurry, playing a Badger West Conference match at Sauk Prairie Monday (Jan. 3) and a home game against Black River Falls Tigers the following night.