Jim den Hollander
BADGER WEST THIS WEEK
The Badger West Division is now one week old in WIAA Hockey play and preparing for its first week of head-to-head conference matches.
Facing tough opposition could have played a part in the division opening the season with a 7-7 record so far and the only undefeated team of the half-dozen is the Sauk Prairie Eagles who scored 15 goals in its first two contests, both wins.
Oregon Panthers picked up with three games in three days at a holiday event in Sheboygan, winning the first two by lopsided scores.
Madison Edgewood Crusaders also opened at a weekend event in Verona, grabbing a split in two games played. The Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells (RWD) Cheavers dropped an opener in Wisconsin Rapids before splitting a pair at a weekend tournament in Somerset.
The Monroe Cheesemakers got an early start, dropping a pair before grabbing its first win against Beloit Memorial and the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds opened its regular season Saturday with a loss against Middleton Cardinals on home ice.
SAUK PRAIRIE EAGLES (2-0-0)
After opening on home ice Tuesday (Nov. 23) with a 7-5 win against the always tough Onalaska Hilltoppers, the Eagles were equally as impressive in its first road test, taking an 8-2 win at Madison Ice Arena (MIA) against the host Madison West Regents.
The Mast brothers, senior Nick (5g, 3a) and junior Luke (2g, 5a) have led the way offensively and Hakon Peterson is close behind with five points (2g, 3a).
OREGON PANTHERS (2-1-0)
The Panthers held off its start to the season until Friday, but then played three games in three days, beginning with a 7-2 win against the Brookfield Stars and a 10-0 whitewash against the Whitefish Bay Storm. The Ashwaubenon Jaguars ended the streak on Sunday with an 8-5 win against the Panthers.
With 22 goals in its first three games, the Panthers enter conference play as a team that can score consistently.
Leading the charge is junior Kyle Rohrer who slides into a share of the state scoring lead with his 18 points (6g, 12a) and sophomore Andrew Jicha (10g, 7a) is just one point behind. Joe Roemer (2g, 10a) has also been a steady contributor.
Junior Josh Kean has been in the blue paint for all three games and stopped 68 of 77 shots so far.
MADISON EDGEWOOD CRUSADERS (1-1-0)
The Crusaders also waited until the weekend to get the season underway. It doesn’t get any tougher than facing the defending state champ in the opener as the Crusaders dropped a 7-2 decision against the Hudson Raiders Friday but rallying back with a 5-1 win against the Chippewa Falls Cardinals on Saturday.
Senior JJ Wiebusch has been in on five of his team’s seven goals (3g, 2a) so far and Cody Menzel has four points (2g, 2a) while senior Aidan Lenz has collected three (1g, 2a).
RWD CHEAVERS (1-2-0)
Entering the season at Wisconsin Rapids Tuesday night, the Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells/Mauston squad held a 2-0 lead early, but the Red Raiders who held a wide margin in shots finally pulled back with the game winner in a 3-2 win coming late in the contest.
From there, the Cheavers moved on to a weekend event in Somerset, dropping its opener 2-1 against the Eau Claire North Huskies Friday before finally breaking into the win column with a 5-3 margin against the host Somerset Spartans on Saturday.
Senior goaltender Cooper Oakes has been a key factor, turning aside 122 shots in three games and posting a Save Percentage of .938 out of the gate.
Offensively, junior Caden Brandt has collected six points (1g, 5a) and Brady Baldwin has picked up four (3g, 1a) while senior CJ Pfaff has been consistent with a point in all three games (1g, 2a).
MONROE CHEESEMAKERS (1-2-0)
Compared to the other teams in the Badger West, the Cheesemakers got off to a quick start, dropping a 4-2 decision to Whitefish Bay Storm on Nov. 19 and falling 8-3 against the Middleton Cardinals on Tuesday before finally breaking into the win column with a 4-2 doubling of the Beloit Memorial Purple Knights.
All three games were played on the road and the Cheesemakers have one more road test before finally playing on home ice.
Senior Blaze Janecke has been a bright spot in the lineup for the Cheesemakers in on six (5g, 1a) of the team’s nine goals and sophomore goaltender Kyle Theorin backstopped the win, stopping all but two of the 42 shots he faced in Beloit.
BARABOO/PORTAGE THUNDERBIRDS (0-1)
Thunderbirds were the final Badger West team to hit the ice, dropping a 7-0 shutout against the Middleton Cardinals Saturday night at Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo.
Senior goaltender Andrew Schaetzl was the busiest man in the game facing 46 shots and stopping 39.
Conference matches ahead
All six teams will enter the Badger West Conference fray this week, but a few teams will have another test along the way.
On Tuesday night, the RWD Cheavers will entertain the Onalaska Hilltoppers while the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds travel to Tomah/Sparta.
The Cheesemakers will be at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) for its fourth straight road test Thursday night and the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds will face its first conference test at Oregon Ice Arena against the host Panthers.
On Friday, the final two teams will match up as the Madison Edgewood Crusaders will make the trip to Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) against the host Cheavers. Also Friday, the Panthers will play host to the McFarland Spartans in a non-conference match.
The week will wrap up with a pair of non-conference battles as Monroe Cheesemakers finally play in front of friendly fans at State Line Ice and Community Expo (SLICE) against the KMMO (Kettle Moraine/Mukwonago/Oconomowoc) hockey club while the Madison Edgewood Crusaders travel across town to Hartmeyer Ice Arena to tangle with the Madison Memorial Spartans.