By Jim den Hollander Editor/Publisher Saukhockey.info Freshman forward Landon Froese fired his second of the game with 5:13 to play in overtime, lifting the Sauk Prairie Eagles to a 5-4 road win at the Onalaska Omni Center Thursday (Dec. 1) night.
The win came in the first game without senior Luke Mast in the lineup and it was an impressive victory against the always strong Onalaska/La Crosse Hilltoppers. Sidelined with a wrist injury, Mast, who finished among the state leaders in scoring last season had 136 career varsity points. Hilltoppers hit the board first for the Hilltoppers 8:59 into the contest but Froese fired his first of the contest 25 seconds later from sophomore Gunnar Nachreiner.
Junior Thor Peterson continued that trend later in the period, responding to the second Hilltoppers’ goal again 25 seconds later with his unassisted goal. Junior Colin Harrington gave the visitors their first lead with a shorthanded goal, unassisted with just over five minutes to play in the opening period. After a scoreless second period, the Hilltopers pulled even 6:29 into the third and this time it was 31 seconds before Harrington’s second put the Eagles in front again with a set up from junior Garret Mittelsteadt. For the Hilltoppers, junior Noah Gillette scored twice and senior Carter Hayes notched the other before Gavin Shuster evened it up again with 7:26 to play. That set the stage for Froese with another unassisted marker in the extra period. Senior goaltender Kaden Stracke played a big part in this one, stopping 39 shots for his third win of the season in the Eagles’ crease and sophomore Josh Pogreba had 24 saves for the Hilltoppers.
Ironically, with the win, the Eagles have one more win at the Omni Center (2) than at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC). The other win came in the season opener against the Avalanche. This win came in the first of four-straight road games for the Eagles. The next three for the 3-1 (1-0) will be Badger West Conference match ups at Pierce Park Pavilion against the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds Saturday (Dec. 3), Tuesday at Reedsburg Area Community Arena against the RWD Cheavers and Thursday at LeBahn Arena against the Madison Edgewood Crusaders. Next home game for the Eagles will also be a conference game as the Monroe Cheesemakers pay a visit Dec. 13.
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.
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.
High School varsity hockey teams are entering the final week of their respective regular seasons and as of Sunday (Feb. 6) the playoff seeds have been set.
The four Sauk County teams will start their respective playoff runs Feb. 15-18, and the number will be cut by at least one in the opening round as the RWD varsity Cheavers will play host to Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds in its first-round match.
The Cheavers drew the #4 seed in the 14-team Section 3 with the Sauk Prairie Eagles ranked #5 and the Thunderbirds were ranked #13.
Top seeded Madison Edgewood Crusaders and second seed Waunakee Warriors both drew a bye through the first round of play.
The other 12 teams will start on Feb. 15 with the six opening game winners heading to regional finals Feb. 17 or 18.
The top half of the draw has a distinct Badger West flavor with RWD, Baraboo/Portage, Sauk Prairie Eagles and the Crusaders in that half of the draw.
The Eagles will entertain the 12th seeded DeForest Norskies in its opening contest with the winner confronting either RWD Cheavers or the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds in the Regional final round.
The other top-half match will see #8 Sun Prairie Cardinals from the Big Eight Conference hosting #9 Onalaska Hilltoppers from the Mississippi Valley Conference.
The bottom half of the draw will include five Big Eight teams.
While the Warriors draw the first-round bye, the third seeded Verona Wildcats will begin its quest for a third straight trip to State against #14 Madison LaFollette/East, #6 Middleton Cardinals will host the Aquinas Co-op Avalanche, seeded 11th and #7 Madison Memorial Spartans will play #10 Madison West Regents.
Lightning ranked sixth
The Seven-team Section 3 draw gives the Badger Lightning a shot at one more meeting with the Cap City Cougars.
The Lightning took the Cougars to overtime at Pierce Park Pavilion on Thursday (Feb. 3) and as the number six seed in Section 3, they will make the trip to third seeded Sun Prairie to face the same team either Feb. 17 or 18 for its first playoff encounter.
Winner of that game will move on to play either second seeded Viroqua or number seven Beaver Dam in the Sectional semis.
The other half of the draw includes the Metro Lynx drawing a first-round bye as the top seed and #4 Icebergs playing host to the #5 Rock County Fury.
The unique draw which sees all seven Badger Conference teams in the same draw makes the Sectional tournament double as a sort of unofficial Conference championship series as well.
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 Sauk Prairie Eagles snapped a two-game losing streak and created a three-way tie for second in the Badger West Conference with three straight home wins at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC).
Starting the stretch, on Monday, Dec. 20 was a needed 7-1 win against the visiting Oregon Panthers, followed up by a 7-5 non-Conference win the following night against the McFarland Spartans and a 9-4 margin on Thursday against the Avalanche, made up of players from La Crosse Aquinas, Holmen and other area schools.
The key might have been rediscovering its offense. In a division that includes some of the best offensive crews in the state, the Eagles fit in well, coming up with 24 goals in its first three games, but then two in its next pair. The Eagles struck for another 23 in the past three carrying it into the Christmas break.
The win against the Panthers was the most important as the Eagles, winners of its first two conference games suddenly saw itself at 2-2 and needed to get back on track.
The Eagles struck for three unanswered first period goals and added two more in the second with two more in the third before the Panthers, a team the boasts the state’s top three point getters avoided being victims of a shutout with the only shot to beat junior Kaden Stracke in the Eagles’ net with 50 seconds to play in the contest.
Junior Luke Mast had a massive night for the Eagles, in on all seven points with a goal and six helpers. Senior Nick Mast added three more goals, including the game winner. Senior Erik Peterson enjoyed his best night so far with two goals and three assists and senior Micah Hanson scored the other.
Spartans 5 @ Eagles 7
A night later, the Eagles engaged in a wild shootout, similar to the season opener against Onalaska.
After allowing the game’s first goal, the Eagles carried a 4-2 lead out of the opening period, but found themselves even at 4-4 four minutes into the middle frame. Two later goals made it 6-4 heading to the third and both teams added one more down the stretch.
The Mast brothers and senior Hakon Peterson scored two each, Peterson added three assists with two for Luke and one for Nick.
The other Eagles’ goal came from freshman Gunnar Nachreiner.
Avalanche 4 @ Eagles 9
Wrapping up the busy and successful week on Thursday, the Eagles again allowed the first goal but carried a 3-1 lead into the middle period and widened the gap to 6-3 by the start of the third.
Nick Mast led the charge again with four goals and an assist, Hakon Peterson adding two of each and Luke Mast picking up a goal and four more assists.
Erik Peterson scored a goal and added two assists, junior Landon Clary scoring the other.
Luke Mast leads the team with 30 points (9g, 21a) at the break, good enough for 10th best in the state and Nick Mast is close behnd with 25 (18g, 7a).
The wins boosted the Eagles’ record at the break to 6-2.
The RWD (Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells/Mauston) Cheavers played its first game on home ice Tuesday but packed a season’s worth of highs/lows and excitement into a 5-4 overtime win against the visiting Onalaska Hilltoppers.
The win was the second straight for the Cheavers and boosted the record to 2-2 on the season after a couple tough one-goal losses to open the season.
It took some grit and determination to grab this on as, despite a 58-39 edge in shots, some unlucky bounces around their own crease forced the team to battle back from one-goal deficits three times, the last one with 94 seconds to play sending the game to overtime.
Junior Caden Brandt was to go-to guy on offense, and he stepped up with that tying goal as well as the overtime game winner for the Cheavers.
The tying goal came on a perfectly executed give-and-go play Brandt to senior CJ Pfaff and back to Brandt giving him some space in the neutral zone. He split the defense to get in alone and deposited the puck into cage with time winding down on a five-minute man advantage for the home team. Junior Logan Demars also collected an assist on the play.
The overtime game winner came after a behind the net pass from sophomore Brady Baldwin to Brandt at the top of the crease and Pfaff had the other assist on that one as well. Baldwin also set up Brandt on the goal that tied the game at 3-3 and the first two RWD goals came from Pfaff with a set up for Brandt and Mitchell Henke with help from Iszak Elder.
Junior Colin Comeau fired the first two Hilltoppers’ goals with single assists for senior Quinn Anderson and junior Gavin Schuster. Later Schuster put the Hilltoppers up 3-2 from Comeau and senior Peyton Jones and sophomore Thomas Bryant fired the fourth goal unassisted.
It didn’t show up on the game sheet, but goaltenders Cooper Oakes from RWD and Abraham Finch of the Hilltoppers, both seniors, came up with some big stops in the contest.
The win was a massive one for RWD who have only played the Hilltoppers in regular season play three times, all losses in the team’s history.
Along with the game’s highs and lows, an emotional tribute to original RWD team member Alex Yacko between the first and second period. Yacko, who scored some huge goals for the RWD program, passed away suddenly shortly before the start of the season. His parents and siblings were all on hand for the brief ceremony and stayed to cheer the Cheavers on to the win.
The Cheavers move on to its first Badger West Conference game Friday playing host to the Madison Edgewood Crusaders and the 0-2 Hilltoppers will get a week to prepare for its first contest on home ice, although as the visiting team against the Avalanche who share the Omni Center in Onalaska, on Dec. 7.