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.
For the past decade or more, the “Coop!” chants have echoed through local arenas, primarily the Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA).
Now the State of Hockey will become aware of the talented goaltender as he officially signed a contract with the Willmar Warhawks of the North American ‘3’ Hockey League.
After being the man to beat in goal for Polars and South-Central Cyclones teams as a youth hockey player, Cooper Oakes (‘03/Reedsburg) rewrote the RWD varsity Cheavers’ goaltending record book, playing 4,344 minutes in 89 games.
During that stretch Oakes kicked out 2,144 of 2,357 shots for a Goals Against Average of 2.50 and a Save Percentage of .910. He started his varsity career with a shutout in Wisconsin Rapids in the fall of 2018 and went on to add another 12 goose eggs over his varsity career.
Oakes plans to attend a few camps, including the Dells Ducks’ session June 17-19 in Aurora, IL, but he is locked in with the Warhawks for the upcoming hockey season.
Oakes made it official, signing with parents and RWD players and coaches at Therapy Without Walls in Reedsburg Sunday (May 29) afternoon.
In an interview (see video below) at the signing, Oakes said there were several teams in the mix, but the Warhawks became the obvious choice for him.
“I talked with Coach (Connor) White on the phone several different times now. He seems like a good guy, a great coach and it just seemed like the right fit,” summed up Oakes.
Coach White said he received a tip on Oakes which he confirmed by checking out some video.
“In this case, I did receive a tip on Cooper and right away felt like there was something there that could help the WarHawks be better both on and off the ice,” said the coach. “Video had later been exchanged and reviewing that video and then speaking to Cooper himself over some phone calls. That just confirmed everything that we had been told and I believed Cooper would bring from a performance, competitive, work ethic, and character standpoint. We are very excited to see Cooper compete in late August when we will begin.”
Along with those in attendance, a special video message from NHL Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr was shown as he personally wished Oakes luck on his next venture.
The Warhawks were one of six teams in the highly competitive NA3HL West Division. This past season the team finished third in regular season play with a record of 32-14-1. Willmar is a city of a little more than 20,000 population, west of the Twin Cities, about a 5-hour drive from Reedsburg.
Crossover games with the Midwest Division could see the team visiting Milwaukee, Chippewa Falls and possibly Oregon at some point in 2022-23.
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.
For a third straight season, the Sauk Prairie Eagles have advanced to the WIAA Sectional semi-finals and for a second straight season it came at the expense of the rival RWD Cheavers by a 5-3 margin at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) Thursday (Feb. 17) night.
The second period, in particular a stretch of 6:08 that saw a 2-1 RWD lead turned into a 5-2 Eagles’ cushion. Of the four goals, Eagles produced one on a powerplay and another shorthanded.
The Eagles held 18-6 shots lead through the period and carried that lead into the final 17 minutes. A desperate Cheavers team threw all it had at the Eagles in the final frame, but the Eagles showed a proficiency in playing a simple defensive game and breaking up numerous RWD rushes through the neutral zone.
The final seven minutes the Cheavers found more success penetrating the Eagles’ end and it paid off with the second goal of the night for senior Trevor Slaght with 6:37 to play. That left plenty of time for two more, but the Eagles again mostly kept RWD chances to the outside.
Senior Micah Hanson fired the game’s first goal, from senior defender Hakon Peterson 3:39 into the game but RWD struck back with two in 55 seconds from seniors Tomas Korndorfer and Slaght to grab its first lead 7:17 into the contest.
Senior Grant Marsich, junior Caden Brandt and sophomore Brady Baldwin each contributed an assist on the first period markers.
Peterson fired a seeing-eye slapper from the blue line that found its way past a host of bodies in front and past senior RWD goaltender Cooper Oakes who never saw it until it whizzed past him 92 seconds into the middle period. Senior Hanson and junior Luke Mast had the assists.
RWD took a penalty, but the Eagles had also assessed one seconds later. Shortly after the Cheavers’ penalty expired, Nick Mast notched an unassisted shorty to put his team in front to stay.
Senior Erik Peterson doubled the Eagles’ lead from the Mast brothers, senior Nick, and junior Luke just over three minutes later and an Eagles’ powerplay made it a three-goal cushion just under three minutes after that one.
Hanson fired the power play tally with an assist for Luke Mast.
The win pushed the Eagles’ overall season record to 19-4 on the season and they advance to the Sectional semis against the Madison Edgewood Crusaders who moved on with a narrow 3-2 edge against the Sun Prairie Cardinals.
As this is written the date and time are still TBA but the game will likely be Tuesday night at La Bahn Arena in Madison.
The other Sectional semi-final will match the second seeded Waunakee Warriors against number three Verona Wildcats who are also two-time defending Sectional 3 Champs.
The Cheavers had one of its most successful seasons come to a sudden end. Even at 5-5 just before Christmas, it was a win against the same Eagles that sent the team on a 14-1 run heading into this one.
Several RWD seniors played their final varsity contest, but at least a few will likely take part in the seniors tournament in a few weeks with the luxury of having some of the Eagles’ rivals as teammates.
The ‘second’ season got underway Tuesday (Feb. 15) for most teams in the WIAA and out the gate, RWD Cheavers and Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds engaged in battle for the third time this season.
The visiting T-Birds did its best to keep things close, but in the end, the Cheavers couldn’t be stopped, scoring four unanswered third period goals to turn a close 4-2 contest into an 8-2 win and a berth in the Regional championship round on Thursday night.
Thunderbirds’ best chance was a close, low scoring contest and while the Cheavers held a substantial margin on the clock counter, Thunderbirds’ senior Andrew Schaetzl made his final varsity game a big one, in particular through the first two periods.
RWD held a 17-9 edge through the opening 17-minutes, sandwiching the lone Thunderbirds’ tally to carry a 2-1 lead into the second period.
T-birds rallied to tie it early in the second, but the Cheavers added two more including one 39-seconds from the end of the period that provided the momentum for a lopsided final frame.
Senior forward Trevor Slaght fired that last minute goal in the second, his second of the game. He added two assists as well while linemates senior C.J. Pfaff (1g, 4a) and junior Caden Brandt (2g, 3a) both enjoyed big nights as well to wrap up a 14-point night for the line.
The team’s other high-octane line – senior Tomas Korndorfer, junior John Scott and sophmore Brady Baldwin also made their presence felt. All three scored in the contest, Baldwin adding two assists and Scott setting up one.
Senior defenseman Grant Marsich adding an assist and senior goaltender Cooper Oakes stopped 24 shots to pick up his 19th win of the season in goal.
Seniors Gabe Fitzwilliams and Oliver Scanlan have carried the load on offense for the Thunderbirds all season long and it was Fitzwilliams burying both goals with an assist for Scanlan on one. The third member of the line, sophomore Carson Zick helped out on both goals for the Thunderbirds.
Schaetzl who has become accustomed to a heavy workload between the pipes for the Thunderbirds, stopped 41 shots and kept his team in it through 34 minutes.
The fourth seeded Cheavers are 1-0 in the post season and 19-6 overall, advancing to the Regional Championship game Thursday (Feb. 17) at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) against number 5 Sauk Prairie Eagles.
Winner of that contest will move into the Sectional semi-finals next week against either Madison Edgewood Crusaders or Sun Prairie Cardinals.
The Baraboo Thunderbirds saw its 4-20 season come to an emotional end.
The RWD varsity Cheavers had one final test and passed with flying colors to check another box on its list of goals for the 2021-22 season with a 9-3 win against the visiting Janesville Bluebirds in its finale on Tuesday (Feb. 8).
Before the season started, Head Coach Neil Mattson and his players set a goal of winning 18 games in its 24-game regular season. That sure didn’t seem likely when the team pulled into the Monk’s Cheeseburger Classic at just over .500 with six wins and five losses.
But a 14-1 stretch to wrap up the season helped the team check the box, grab a number four seed in the 14-team Sectional pool and gain some major momentum heading into what the team hopes will be a long post season run.
The Bluebirds are no slouch, come into the game Tuesday with a 12-9 record and playing in the tough Big Eight Conference, but the Cheavers left no doubt which was the better team, outshooting its guest 52-21 including a dominant 26-5 edge in the middle period. That helped the team turn a 2-1 cushion after 17 minutes into a 7-2 margin by the start of the third.
Offensively, four players collected four points in the contest. Junior Caden Brandt led the way with a four-goal game wrapping up a 26-goal, 46-point regular season. Junior John Scott added two goals and two assists, a total matched by senior linemate Tomas Korndorfer and senior C.J. Pfaff, the team’s leading scorer, set up four to finish a 49-point campaign.
The other Cheavers’ goal came from sophomore Brady Baldwin, third member of the line with Korndorfer and Scott while Trevor Slaght, third member of the line with Pfaff and Brandt, collected two assists.
Senior defenseman Grant Marsich also collected an assist and senior goaltender Cooper Oakes wrapped up an 18-win season, third best total in the state. A starter for RWD since his first game as a freshman, Oakes wrapped up his varsity regular season career with a 52-31-3 record with RWD goaltending records in almost every category.
Next up for the local squad is the post season, beginning Tuesday (Feb. 15) at Lake Delton Ice Arena against the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds.
Between the first and second periods, the Cheavers seniors and sophomores paid tribute to their favorite teachers in a brief on-ice ceremony.
The RWD varsity Cheavers hockey team wrapped up a two-game northern getaway Saturday (Feb. 5) afternoon with a 5-1 win against the host Ashland Oredockers.
Four unanswered goals in the middle period made the difference in this one as both teams fired one in the opening period and the final 17-minutes was scoreless.
RWD junior Caden Brandt fired his first of four to open the scoring, from senior Trevor Slaght and Grant Marsich 3:35 from the end of the opening period, but the Oredockers struck back with the only shot of 21 to get past senior Cooper Oakes in goal for the Cheavers with 13 seconds to play in the frame.
Brandt notched the game winner from senior C.J. Pfaff and first year Kaden Uminski 49 seconds into the second, senior Tomas Korndorfer adding another before the end of the second minute, from senior Trevor Slaght and junior Logan DeMars.
Brandt fired the other two, 49 seconds apart inside the game’s final three minutes. Pfaff collected an assist on both with Slaght also helping on one.
Both teams fired 10 shots in the opening period, but it was a dominant RWD effort with a 15-5 edge in the second and a closer 9-6 margin down the stretch.
The win boosts the team’s overall record to 17-6 and extends its current winning streak to four games.
The Cheavers will wrap up the regular season Tuesday night with a 7 p.m. contest against the Janesville Bluebirds (12-9, 8-5 Big Eight Conference).
The RWD varsity Cheavers hockey team started the season with a trip north to play in a tournament and made a similar trip for its final two road games of the season this weekend.
The Cheavers started the trek with a 2-1 win against the Hayward Hurricanes Friday (Feb. 4) night at the Hayward Ice Arena.
The Cheavers turned in of of its best offensive games of the season, but despite peppering Hurricanes’ keeper, junior Logan Abric with 38 shots, he stood tall in the net on all but two.
The Cheavers outshot its host 14-5 through the opening 17-minutes but teams were still scoreless until the second when senior Clayton Pfaff found the mesh with assists for senior Trevor Slaght and junior Caden Brandt.
The Canes, who played with a roster of just a dozen skaters, tied the game later in the middle period setting the stage for junior defender Carsen Brandt who sank the game winner in the final period with assists for his senior defense partner Grant Marsich and Pfaff.
While Abric turned in a solid effort in goal for the Canes, senior Cooper Oakes turned in another stellar performance as well, stopping all but one Hurricanes’ shot.
The win boosted the Cheavers’ season record to 16-6, continuing its current winning streak to four games and adding to a record of 13-1 since Dec. 17.
The Cheavers were scheduled to wrap up the weekend road trip Saturday (Feb. 5) afternoon at Ashland against the host Oredockers, then returning home for its regular season finale Tuesday at Lake Delton Ice Arena against the Janesville Bluebirds.
The 14-team Section 3 playoff field will be set on Sunday with a seeding meeting.
RWD varsity goaltender Cooper Oakes rose to the occasion in a big way at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) Friday night to lift the RWD squad to a 3-2 win against the host Sauk Prairie Eagles Tuesday (Feb. 1) night.
Despite a 35-19 edge in shots in the contest, Oakes kept his crease clean for the most part.
Out of the gate, the Eagles owned a 15-5 edge in shots through the first period but counted just one goal as sophomore Colin Harrington notched his first varsity goal, from senior twice Hakon and Erik Peterson 2:21 from the end of the opening period.
The Eagles carried the lead into the second period, but the Cheavers found a way past junior Kaden Stracke in goal for the Eagles twice, grabbing a lead and holding it to the final buzzer.
Junior Caden Brandt converted a Trevor Slaght feed for his 18th goal of the season to pull the Cheavers even 4:07 into the middle frame and junior John Scott notched his 12th late in the period from senior linemate Tomas Korndorfer.
Both teams fired nine shots through the middle 17 minutes, but the Eagles dominated the shot clock again down the stretch with an 11-5 margin in the third.
But it was the Cheavers on the board first in the frame with an all-senior effort, Slaght pulling the trigger on the game winner from CJ Pfaff and Grant Marsich 2:11 into the frame.
Erik Peterson responded for the Eagles 6:55 in, but Oakes allowed nothing else past through the final 10 minutes to secure the win.
All three Cheavers’ goals were scored at even strength and both Eagles’ markers came on powerplays.
While the Cheavers celebrated an emotional win against one of its biggest rivals, also cheering was the Madison Edgewood Crusaders who are all but assured the Badger West Conference crown as both the Eagles and Cheavers have three losses while the Crusaders are undefeated through seven conference games.
The Eagles saw an 11-game winning streak ended with the loss, its first since Dec. 17.
The Cheavers boosted its overall record 15-6 and became the first team to wrap up its Badger West Conference schedule with a 7-3 mark. After seeing a long winning streak of its own ended Jan. 18, the team has shrugged it off with two wins since and is 11-1 since Dec. 17.
RWD will head north for a pair of games this weekend against the Hayward Hurricanes (8-10-1, 4-3-1 Middle Border Conference) Friday night and the Ashland Oredockers (8-11, Independent) on Saturday, wrapping up its regular season Tuesday at the Lake Delton Ice Arena against the Janesville Bluebirds (12-7-0, 8-4 Big Eight Conference).
The Eagles sit at 14-3 on the season and 5-3 in Badger West Conference matches. The team has four games yet to play, three on home ice, beginning Thursday (Feb. 3) at home against the Middleton Cardinals (15-6-0, 9-5 Big Eight Conference).
The lone road trip will be Monday (Feb. 7) when the Eagles travel to Monroe to play a Badger West Conference match against the Cheesemakers (2-17-0, 0-7 Badger West), then return home to play Tomah/Sparta (6-13-2, 1-3 Mississippi Valley Conference) Tuesday (Feb. 8) and the Madison Edgewood Crusaders (16-3-0, 7-0 Badger West Conference) two nights later.