South-Central WEHL squad collects Wheels of Fire title

By Jim den Hollander 


With a week off in the middle of its short season schedule, the 14U South Central Wisconsin Elite Hockey League (WEHL) squad took several team members to the Chicago area for a weekend tournament. 

Clearly the class of the field, the South-Central squad which uses the Lake Delton Ice Arena as a home-base, didn’t just pick up four wins, but surrendered just a single goal on the weekend at the Wheels of Fire Tournament

Starting out against THEM Girls. South-Central collected a 6-0 win with Tomah’s Shelby King (Blue Devils AAA) leading the way with a four-goal game, Anna Phillips of Black River Falls and Julia Purinton from McFarland (Madison Mavericks) notching the other goals.  

Against the Metro Jets from the Detroit area, South-Central rolled to a 10-0 goose egg with Phillips and King notching two more apiece and others for Waunakee’s Olivia Dull; Leah Grudzinski from Verona (Madison Mavericks); Maizy Fonseca of Warren (Monroe Youth Hockey Avalanche); Abby Hollfelder of Sun Prairie (Madison Mavericks); Carolina Cutrano from Waunakee (Madision Mavericks) and Payton O’Neill from Black River Falls (WI TNT/Blue Devils) and Reedsburg’s Paige Othmer (Badger Lightning/RWD/Blue Devils) collected an assist on the game winner. 

RWD/Badger Lightning defender hustles back to her own end to gather a puck against the WEHL SouthEast team at the Wheels of Fire Tournament in Darien, IL. While helping defensively on a weekend that saw just one goal against in four contests, Othmer also contributed an assist for South-Central.

Against a familiar opponent, the WEHL SouthEast team (for the fifth time in two weeks), the South Central squad kept rolling with a 4-1 win. This time Brynn Brinkmeister is from Sun Prairie (Madison Mavericks/Wisconsin Jr. Stars) paced the attack with two goals and othes came from Phillips and Grudzinski. 

The weekend finished where it started as South Central lined up Sunday against THEM Girls once again, getting a tougher challenge but still blanking the oppostion 3-0. 

Othmer drew a penalty and it was on that powerplay the South-Central squad notched the game winner, Grudzinski pulling the trigger for her second of the weekend.  

Insurance came late as Phillips stayed hot, scoring the clincher wrapping up a weekend that saw her score in every game, notching the easiest one of the stretch into an empty THEM Girls cage. Another empty netter from King put an exclamation point on it. 

While the goals piled up for the South-Central squad, goaltending has been unreal this season so far as the goaltending trio of Lily Rosenthal from Sun Prairie (Madison Mavericks/Jr. Wisconsin Stars); Tomah’s Alexa Moore (TNT Hockey/Blue Devils) and Diana Hanson from Holmen (Coulee Region Stars/Jr. Chill/River Valley Fuse) have kept a clean crease five times in 10 games. 

The 14U South-Central squad will be back in Lake Delton on Wednesday to prepare for a return to WEHL play this weekend as they travel to Cornerstone in Green Bay Sunday for a pair of games against North-Central/NorthEast at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.  

The South Central team is 2-2-2 in WEHL league play and 6-2-2 overall heading into this weekend, but they have not played this team yet. 

The WEHL South-Central squad took a minute after four games in Darien, IL to show off their medals and championship pennant won at the Wheels of Fire 14U Hockey Tournament this past weekend. The team will head into its second and final month of the WEHL season in Green Bay Sunday.


Barger goal starts up 14U South Central sweep at Lake Delton

By Jim den Hollander


The South-Central 14U Girls Wisconsin Elite Hockey League (WEHL) team rallied back from a pair of opening weekend defeats against the West squad with back-to-back shutouts against the South-East WEHL squad at Lake Delton Ice Arena Sunday (Sept. 12) 

Goaltenders Alexa Moore, from Tomah (TNT/Blue Devils) kicked out 20 shots in the first encounter, a 3-0 win for South-Central and Lily Rosenthal from Sun Prairie (Madison Mavericks Jr. Wis. Stars) turned aside another 10 in the second game, won by the locals 1-0. 

In the opener, South-Central scored once in each period, beginning with Tahni Barger a DeForest native that played with both the Sauk Monkeys and Sauk Flyers along with Wildcat Youth Hockey. Barger drained a long range shot from just inside the blue line 20-seconds from the end of the opening period. Olivia Dull from Waunakee had a set up on the goal by Barger.

Barger is one of three Sauk County blue liners on the team – joined by Reedsburg’s Paige Othmer (Badger Lightning, RWD, Blue Devils AAA) and Sarah Hash, a Middleton native that played with both the Sauk Prairie Flyers and Sauk Monkeys as well as the Wisconsin Jr. Stars. Also on the team is Baraboo’s Reese Olson (Badger Lightning, Blue Devils AAA). 

Other home team goals came from Anna Phillips from Black River Falls and Carolina Cutrano, also Waunakee (Mavericks). 

Teams played through a pair of 15-minute frames settling nothing, although the South-Central team held an edge in both shots and control of the contest. 

Ironically, the only goal of the contest came with South-Central shorthanded as Dull put one in under the cross bar, spoiling an otherwise brilliant effort from Elizabeth Bowers of Cedarburg (Ozaukee Youth Hockey) who stopped all but one of the 46 shots she faced, often two or more at a time. 

Head Coach Jared O’Neill was pleased with the effort of his team (see video interview below) as the team evened its Before Season record at 2-2.  

Sarah Hash carries the puck backed up by South-Central teammate Tahni Barger
South-Central defender Paige Othmer lugs the puck through the neutral zone in action at Lake Delton Ice Arena against the South-East 14U WEHL team.
South-Central forward Reese Olson gets a little physical to get control of the puck against the SouthEast 14U team at Lake Delton Ice Arena Sunday.
Members of the South-Central 14U WEHL team celebrate a second period goal by Anna Phillps against the South-East squad at Lake Delton Ice Arena. The local side won both games — 3-0 and 1-0 and will make the trek to Ozaukee for the return matches next Sunday.

Engel in familiar spot with Lumberjills

By Jim den Hollander


As a player, Kaylee Engel found herself in an unfortunately familiar situation in her freshman year with the Northland College Lumberjills in 2020-21.

Kaylee Engel

After honing her craft under the Reedsburg Polars/RWD youth hockey banners, Engel, 19,  played four seasons of varsity with the Badger Lightning hockey club. She appeared in 85 games, scoring 29 goals and collecting 55 points and wrapped up her run with the squad as the team’s captain in 2019-20.

A clear leader by example on the team, Engel did all she could to help a Lightning team that enjoyed limited success.

A worldwide pandemic played havoc for the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) women’s hockey conference. Teams finally took the ice in late January, playing a compacted campaign. For a building Lumberjills squad, that season consisted of nine consecutive defeats.

With limited prep time, the gap between varsity hockey and NCAA Division 3 matches was a steep one for Engel who appeared in all nine games for the Lumberjills but was unable to collect a point on a team that scored just 9 goals and was shutout three times.

The team dropped home and away matches against the UW-Superior Yellowjackets, UW-River Falls Falcons, UW-Eau Claire Blugolds and UW Stevens Point Pointers in regular season play, then dropped a 6-2 decision to the Yellowjackets in playoff action.

Engel had five shots on goal and blocked shot, served one minor penalty and finished the season with a -12 ranking. She was called on to take a few draws in the playoff contest, winning one of three.

Engel realized hockey wasn’t the only reason she was at Northland though and collected a nice perk when she was named to the WIAC Honor Roll along with 34 other members of the Northland Men’s and Women’s hockey teams.

Engel will return to Ashland, Wis. For her sophomore season this fall and the team’s hockey schedule is still to be announced as of today. Watch for Engel to become a more offensive presence on the team with a partial season of experience under her belt.

Baraboo/Portage records since 2010

By Jim den Hollander


The summer project – compiling stats on all four Sauk County varsity hockey teams passed the halfway mark with the completion of Baraboo/Portage.

Technically, while this project will put together the overall records, records vs. every team and player stats since the 2010-11 season, it will be ongoing into the season in November putting together conference records, total goals for and against then some single season records.

Once again, I thank and credit which has been my source for all the statistical information. The stats on that website go back a bit further than 2010-11, but that seems like a perfect starting point as that was when the current RWD and Baraboo/Portage outfits were formed. I am using that as the starting point for Sauk Prairie and the Badger Lightning as well simply to make everything uniform.

Here are some of the interesting tidbits gathered on the Baraboo/Portage squad:

The team’s overall record in that span is 123-113-11. After six straight seasons, north of .500, topping at 16-5 in 2013-14, the Thunderbirds have been sub .500 for the past five straight, but current head coach, David Clark was close, a season ending tie in the spring of 2020 wrapping up an 11-12-1 campaign.

Clark and his assistants are a positive influence on the players and show a great deal of loyalty to the players, in particular starting goaltenders such as Dane Hinz who played every one of the 1250+ minutes that season in the blue paint for the team in that 19-20 season.

Clark’s overall record with the team is 33-52-1.

The team’s top overall scorer since 2010-11 is Tyler Laux with 40 goals and 124 points in 60 games played. Just four points back with 52 goals and 120 points is Steven Mordini and Dawson Hinz rounds out the top three with 58 goals and 113 points and 2021 graduate Campbell Koseor sits fourth overall with 48 goals and 103 points.

Leading goal scorer is Adam Stanton who notched 61 goals in 64 games, and he also rounds out the top five overall with 101 points. The 84 assists for the Laux is the most by 16 ahead of Mordini.

Penalty minutes leader to date is Mordini with 161, nine more than Joe Zemanovic and Stanton picked up 132 minutes in the box.

In goal, a trio of stoppers combine to lead in different categories. Sean McCutchin collected the most wins with 27, one more than Nate Heckendorf and four more than Dane Hinz who leads minutes played with 3,146.52, more than 400 more minutes and second ranked Heckendorf.

Hinz also leads with the most losses, at 36, the most shots against with 1,986 and saves with 1,760. Nate Godemann played just 436:45 but they were quality minutes as he posted a record of 7-0-0 and a team best 2.57 Goals Against Average. Best Save Percentage among players with at least 100 minutes was Heckendorf at .895 and his eight shutouts is also a team best.

Hopefully in the next few weeks, I will have a few paragraphs on the Sauk Prairie Eagles and Badger Lightning and then double back for conference winners and records and all-time goals for and against.

Engel surprised by coaches leaving Northland College

With files from Northland College.

When Kaylee Engel announced she would be attending Northland College in the fall, Head Coach Kelly Rider played a big part in that decision.

A recent announcement though from the College has Rider leaving the program.

 Kelly Rider has stepped down from her position as the head coach of the women’s hockey program at Northland College to pursue other professional opportunities.

Rider was the first ever women’s hockey coach at Northland.  She started the program in 2015 and recently saw her original recruiting class graduate this past season.  In her second year in charge, Rider’s program beat Adrian College who was ranked #2 in the country and coming off of an appearance in the NCAA National Championship.  Rider improved the program year after year and in 2019 guided the Jills in their inaugural season into the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which is regularly regarded as one of the top hockey conferences in the country. 

“It’s been an honor to be part of the building of Jills hockey with all of our players the past 5 years,” said Rider.  “I’m proud of each player’s individual growth on and off the ice and thankful for all their time and efforts. It’s been special to watch the development and growth as a program, from the first commitment, the first game, the first win, the first graduates, and now the next generation of Jills hockey. I’m excited to see all that the program and players continue to accomplish.”

Engel said Rider and her Assistant, Kaylee Harnen played a big part in her ultimate decision to become a Lumberjill and the news of her leaving the program came as a surprise to her.

“(I was) very surprised, but I wish them the best in the future,” said Engel in a typed interview.

“Coach Rider and Coach Harnen both had a big influence on my decision to go to Northland. Coach Harnen helped me so much throughout the recruiting processes and they both welcomed me with open arms.”

While wishing the coaches well, Engel is determined to take advantage of the opportunity that she has landed no matter who is being the bench.

“I have been able to talk to many players on the team, both returning and incoming and we are all very excited to see where the hockey program will go and are very excited to play this upcoming season,” said Engel.

“Coach Rider has been an instrumental figure in constructing our first ever women’s hockey program and we wish her luck in her next chapter,” commented Interim Athletic Director Seamus Gregory.  “Through her hard work she made what was essentially a dream become a reality. Northland College Women’s Hockey is one of the pillars of our department with a thriving roster and from the diligent efforts of Coach Rider it will remain that way forever. The student athletes we have on our current roster and our incoming players will continue the strong tradition she built and move the program forward in a very positive direction in the WIAC and beyond.”

A national search is currently underway for the head coaching position.  The Jills will be returning for their second year in the WIAC, and they have already announced a large recruiting class from across North America. 

“We have an unbelievable hockey community here in the City of Ashland,” commented Gregory.  “The support is phenomenal for both our hockey programs and we look forward to the national search for our next Head Coach.”

The Badger Lightning captain this past season, Engel is one of four players with Sauk County ties to make the jump to the NCAA Tier 3 level this fall.

Jordan O’Connor who collected 20 wins in goal for the Sauk Prairie Eagles varsity team and helped them reach the Sectional semis will be a rival for Engel, patrolling the crease for the UW-River Falls Falcons in the WIAC this season.

Reedsburg native Julianna Teske, who played AAA hockey with the Madison Capitols before attending high school in Warroad, MN, committed to play at Augsberg University in the MIAC this fall.

Sebastian Frank attended Wisconsin Dells High School and played his freshman season with the RWD program before moving on to a junior stint in the USPHL with the Minnesota Mullets recently committed to play in the MIAC as well, with Gustavus Adolphus.

Lightning and Monkeys hosting State Tournaments

The South Central Cyclones/Badger Lightning at Sauk Prairie Flyers/Monkeys will both be Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association (WAHA) State Championship hosts this season with the State 10-U B Girls Championship tournament to be held at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) in Prairie du Sac March 7-8 and the State U-12 B State Championship contest at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) the following weekend.
Details on both events was finalized with the various Regional Championships decided this past weekend.
WAHA U-10 B Girls State Championship
As host, the U-10 Sauk Prairie Monkeys earn an automatic berth into the tournament as did the Dane County Diamonds, the only other Regional representative at this division.
They will square off in the final game of the opening round of play at SPARC at 12:45 p.m. Saturday (March 7). Other opening round games will see Green Bay Bobcats against a still to be determined team at 9 a.m.; Washington County Lynx, taking on Appleton Freeze at 10:15 a.m. and Hayward Hurricanesagainst Beaver Dam at 11:30 a.m.
All eight teams will play twice on the opening day, the Monkeys facing off against either Beaver Dam or Hayward in the second round. All eight will play once more on Sunday, culminating with the State Championship game at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

WAHA U-12 B Girls State Championship
The U-12 Badger Lightning will play host as well at the RACA the following weekend.
The good news is both the Badger Lightning and Monkeys will play in the tournament. The bad news is they will square off against each other at the end of the opening round Saturday at RACA at 1:15 p.m. Saturday (March 14).
Other first round action will see Marinette/Menominee Thunder against TNT (Black River Falls); at 8 a.m.; the Washington County Lynx against the Black Cats (Black River Falls) at 9:45 a.m. and the Hayward Hurricanes taking on the Beaver Dam Wildfire at 11:30 a.m. Depending on results, the Monkeys and Lightning will move on to play either the Wildfire or Hurricanes in the second round at RACA. The U12 B State Championship game will faceoff on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Cyclones, Lightning, Flyers and Monkeys head to Regionals

Regionals are here for all of the local youth hockey teams.
Beginning tonight and running through the weekend, every level in Region 4 will go through Playdowns with the victors advancing to the state championship tournaments in March.
The South Central Cyclones and Badger Lightning will have eight teams taking part in Regional events this weekend while the Sauk Prairie Flyers and Monkeys girls team will total a half dozen teams, including one that is drawing an automatic bid to state and enjoy a weekend off.

South Central Cyclones Squirts (U-10)
All three Squirt teams will be trying to qualify but it will be a tough run. The Squirt A squad will begin the 2A Playoffs at McFarland against Oregon at 1 p.m. Saturday with the winner of that game advancing to the Regional championship Sunday against Janesville at 9:15 a.m. at Verona. The state tournament will be at McFarland March 7-8.
The B squad will follow the A side with a 2:15 p.m. game at McFarland on Saturday, taking on the Oregon B’s. Winner of this game will advance to the Regional final Sunday at 8 a.m. at Verona against either Janesville or McFarland. The Regional champion will earn a berth at the State Championship Tournament March 7-8 at Menomonie.
The C’s will get an early start on what could be a busy weekend, playing McFarland in a 6 p.m. game at Vernona tonight (Friday). The winner of that will move into the second round against Janesville Black, Saturday at the Ice Pond in Waunakee, starting at 6:45 p.m. That semi-final winner will face either Janesville Blue or Oregon for the Regional title at Verona Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Squrit 2C State will take place March 7-8 at Washington County and it appears in this Division both finalists will qualify for State, the Regional Runner Up grabbing a Wild Card spot.

Sauk Prairie Flyers Squirts (U-10)
The Squirt Flyers finished on top in league play and draw a bye straight to the Regional championship game against either Stoughton or Monroe Sunday at 8 a.m. at the Ice Pond in Waunakee.
Winner of that game will represent Region 4 at the Squirt 3A State Championship tournament at Waupaca March 7-8.
The Flyers’ Squirt B team has drawn an even better bye, an automatic bid as the Regional rep at the 3B State tournament to be played at Marshfield March 7-8.

Sauk Prairie Peewees/12U Girls

The Sauk Prairie Monkeys U-12 Girls Hockey team will be at the Ice Pond Sunday at 9:15 a.m. to square off against the Dane County Diamonds. The winner will represent Region 4 at the State 12U B Championship event to be hosted by the South Central Cyclones March 14-15.
The Sauk Peewee A team also moves straight to the Regional championship game, facing Monroe Sunday at the Ice Pond in a 12:15 p.m. start for the right to play at the 3A State Championship March 14-15 at Black River Falls.
The Sauk Prairie B team will play in the 2C playdowns beginning at Oregon, 11 a.m. Saturday against the McFarland Peewees.
Winner of that game will move on to play in the Regional championship match Sunday at the Ice Pond in Waunakee with a 10:45 a.m. faceoff. The Region winner will take part in the State 2C Championship tournament at Somerset, March 14-15.

South Central Cyclones Peewees

The Peewee A Cyclones will begin its quest at the Ice Pond on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. against Janesville with the winner advancing to play for the Region 4 Crown Sunday at Sun Prairie (Tubbs) at 11:30 a.m. against either Oregon or McFarland.
The 2A State tournament will be played at Elmbrook March 14-15.
The Peewee B squad will begin on Saturday at Hartmeyer Arena in Madison with a 2:45 p.m. faceoff against Oregon. Winner of that battle moves into the Regional championship game against either McFarland or Janesville at Sun Prairie (Tubbs), Sunday at 10 a.m. Region champion will move on to play at the State 2B Championship tournament at Eagle River March 14-15.

South Central Cyclones Bantams/U-14 Badger Lightning
The U-14 Lightning steps into the post season event Saturday at 6:15 p.m. against Maverick A at McFarland with the winner moving into the Regional championship game against either Jr. Fury or Maverick B Sunday at Oregon with an 11 a.m. faceoff.
The U-14 State Championship will be played March 7-8 at West Salem.
The Bantam A Cyclones will play at Verona, 12:30 p.m. Saturday against Janesville with the winner advancing to play either Oregon or McFarland Sunday with an 11 a.m. faceoff at Sun Prairie (Cardinal). Winner of that game will represent the Region at 2A State to be played March 7-8 at Hayward.
The Bantam B Cyclones will also start at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, but at Oregon against Janesville with the winner advancing to meet Oregon or McFarland Sunday in a 9:30 a.m. at Sun Prairie (Cardinal). Regional champion will be invited to the State 2B Championship tournament at Sheboygan March 7-8.

Sauk Prairie Flyers Bantams
The Sauk Prairie Bantams, made up primarily of players from last season’s Peewee State Championship team, will face Monroe in a win or go home Regional Championship game Sunday at Hartmeyer Arena in Madison at 1:15 p.m.
The Bantam 3A State Championship tournament will be played in Rhinelander March 14-15.