For a second straight season the RWD varsity Cheavers ran into a tough Eau Claire North Huskies team at the Somerset Invitational tournament.
This time around teams met in their respective opening games at the tournament, the Huskies advancing to the championship game with a 5-3 win against the Cheavers. Both the game winning and game clinching goals came in the final four minutes of the contest.
Teams traded goals through the first period, senior Nick Thompson firing his first of three in the game 5:13 into the contest before Brady Baldwin notched his first of the campaign about four minutes later, unassisted on the Cheavers’ powerplay.
The lone goal of the second period came seven seconds into the session, senior John Scott burying his first of two in the contest and first of the season with just seven ticks off the clock. This goal was also unassisted.
The Huskies rallied to tie the score 4:25 into the final period, Thompson pulling the trigger again and senior Brayton Thillman put them in front again at the 9:17 mark. The lead lasted just 27 seconds before Scott buried his second of the game, from senior Caden Brandt.
Thompson connected on a powerplay with 3:28 to go to finish off his hat trick and before the final buzzer Thillman added another as well.
Sophomore Alex Griebe kicked out 26 of 31 shots in the contest while senior Tristan Bock collected the win in the season opener for the Huskies with 24 saves.
The other game in the four-team tournament matched 2-0 Antigo Red Robins against Somerset Spartans, setting up a consolation match between the Red Robins and Cheavers Saturday while the Spartans and Huskies were scheduled to play for the championship.
By Jim den Hollander Editor/Publisher Saukhockey.info Three goals from senior captain Caden Brandt and 26 stops for sophomore goaltender Alex Griebe led the RWD Cheavers to a 4-1 win at Reedsburg Arena Community Arena (RACA) in its 2022-23 WIAA season opener against the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders Tuesday night.
The Red Raiders are frequently among the first competitors for the Cheavers and the win Tuesday avenged a season opening loss in Wisconsin Rapids last season.
While Brandt found the mesh for three of the four RWD goals, the team showed off three solid lines and appeared to be in control for much of the contest, although shots on goal show the visitors with a 27-17 overall margin. Czech exchange student Lukas Vana made his presence felt in his first WIAA contest. A defenseman, he showed off a strong 200-foot game and he stepped up from the blueline to collect his first varsity goal, the game winner, giving the Cheaves a 2-1 cushion in the final minute of the opening period. Brandt notched the first of the game on a feed from twin brother Carsen Brandt 9:38 into the contest but Carter Morrison evened it up just 45 seconds later on a powerplay, unassisted.
Brandt scored the other two goals, 1:50 apart in the second period. The first had set ups from Vana and Logan DeMars and the other was a solo effort, sniped from about 30 feet out. Griebe made the lead stand up, blocking all 16 shots in the final two periods to help the Cheavers collect the win. Like last season, the Ducks will head to Somerset for the post-Thanksgiving weekend to compete a four-team event. First up will be last season’s tournament champion Eau Claire North Huskies from the Big Rivers Conference on Friday with a 2 p.m. faceoff and the Cheavers will wrap it up Saturday against either Somerset Spartans from the Middle Border Conference or Antigo Red Robins from the Great Northern Confernce. The Cheavers will follow that up with five straight Badger West Conference matches, beginning on the road in Oregon Dec. 2 against the Panthers with the next home game at RACA Dec. 6 against the Sauk Prairie Eagles.
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.
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.
The RWD varsity Cheavers hockey team came up way short on the shot clock once again but banked on some stellar goaltending to keep them close in the opening game of a tournament in Somerset on Friday (Nov. 26).
The Cheavers were facing off against the Eau Claire North Huskies for the first time in team history and managed just 17 shots on goal while Cooper Oakes was pounded with 44.
But after a pair of first period goals, Oakes turned aside all 28 shots in the final two frames to keep his team alive. Brady Baldwin’s tally, with help from Caden Brandt and CJ Pfaff 13 seconds into the final period had the Cheavers within a shot of tying the game, but that was as close as RWD would get in this one.
The loss dropped RWD to 0-2 on the season and pushed them into a consolation game the following day against the host Somerset Spartans.
The Spartans met the Antigo Red Robins later Friday and dropped a 6-5 decision in overtime.
It took a while, but the host Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders persistence paid off with a 3-2 win against the RWD (Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells) Cheavers on home ice at the South Wood County Recreation Center on Tuesday night.
Goaltender Cooper Oakes has played some big games in Rapids, both as a youth player and later as the puck stopper for RWD and this was another one. Oakes kicked out 33 of 36 shots, including all 15 he faced in the opening period. That allowed the Cheavers to carry a 2-0 lead to the locker room at the break despite a 15-7 edge in shots for the Red Raiders.
Sophomore Brady Baldwin notched the first one for RWD 37 seconds into the contest and Logan Demars scored the other just over two minutes from the buzzer, both on set ups from junior Caden Brandt.
Sophomore Josh Dekarske finally found a way past Oakes 8:17 into the second and sophomore Carsen Gause evened it up 74 seconds later.
The Red Raiders went on to outshoot the Cheavers by a 36-15 margin but didn’t capture its first and only lead until Dekarske scored with 6:25 to play.
Gause picked up assists on both Dekarske goals and other help came from seniors Carson Gunderson and Jacob Dekarske.
Senior Dakota Blasky stopped everything he faced in the final two periods to pick up a 13-save win in goal.
The Cheavers will continue a busy opening week, traveling to Somerset to take part in a four-team tournament Friday and Saturday. In the first game, RWD will play the Eau Claire North Huskies Friday at 2:15 p.m. at Somerset Ice Arena. On Saturday, the opposition will be either the Antigo Red Robins or Somerset Spartans.
The Red Raiders next action will be another home game on Dec. 2 when Wisconsin Valley Conference play gets underway against the Marshfield Tigers.
The RWD varsity hockey team, representing Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Mauston High Schools is rolling into its 12th season as a co-operative squad and once again, the bar has been set high by Head Coach Neil Mattson and his charges.
With a large group of seniors that have reached some lofty plateaus since they were young and a great supporting cast, the Cheavers appear to have all the bases – offense, defense and goaltending – covered heading into the season.
Mattson and the Reedsburg Area High School Athletic Director Bryan Yager have worked to put together as tough a schedule as possible each season and the 2021-22 campaign will see the addition of teams like the Onalaska Hilltoppers, River Falls Wildcats, Eau Claire North Huskies and Ashland Oredockers while still maintaining the other already tough non-conference schedule.
The realignment of the Badger Conferences will see Waunakee Warriors, Deforest Norskies and Beaver Dam Golden Beavers moving out while the always tough Madison Edgewood Crusaders, Oregon Panthers and Monroe Cheesemakers will join the Cheavers, Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds and Sauk Prairie Eagles in what should be a difficult conference with no easy matches.
Last season, the Cheavers put together an 11-8 regular season record in a tough season due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place. There was no official Badger Conference play, but there was a playoff schedule. After defeating the Middleton Cardinals in the opening round, the Cheavers fell in the Regional Finals to the Sauk Prairie Eagles.
The team has been hit with a pair of injuries that will keep a pair of key players out of the lineup, but Mattson remains confident this team can overcome the adversity and move forward.
Senior forward Trevor Slaght was injured on the biggest stage, as a member of the Janesville Jets 18U team playing and winning a USA Hockey National Championship in Green Bay in April. An ACL injury will sideline the speedy forward until at least January although he has been taking part in non-contact drills with the team since practices started last week.
“He is a big asset to the offense when he returns,” said Mattson in a pre-season interview. “Trevor is one of the hardest working young men. He has the ability for next level and has been working very hard to return this season.”
Also lost is junior defenseman Carsen Brandt who suffered a shoulder injury during the football season, requiring surgery that will have him sidelined for the entire 2021-22 hockey schedule.
“He is going to be missed,” said Mattson adding he is one of the team’s top defenders. “But, thankfully, he will have his senior (2022-23) season.
We have high expectations this season,” said the Coach. “Our mentality now is ‘next man up.’ We have a fantastic group of kids working hard this season.”
To begin the campaign, the defense will likely include a group of five – Seniors CJ Pfaff, Ty Thompson and Grant Marsich along with sophomores Izak Elder and Mark Othmer, looking to carry the load with the loss of Brandt and the graduation of Schyvinck.
Up front, it appears junior Caden Brandt and sophomore Brady Baldwin will stay together after teaming up with Ely last season as a potent trio. Junior Logan DeMars is penciled in as the third member of the unit this season.
Junior John Scott, sophomore Trey Lariden and senior Tomas Korndofer are slated to play together as well with another line including junior Yevgeny Dedun, senior Mitchell Henke and junior Caleb Eastman will make up a line that will have as much responsibility on the defensive end as it does contribute to the offense.
Senior Cooper Oakes will enter an already great run with the varsity team, five games shy of Tyler Arneson’s games played record (70) and he already holds the team records for wins (34); Shots (1,703), Saves (1,538) and Shutouts (9). The senior leader will also help in the grooming of freshman Alexander Griebe, who will take the torch in the future.
The varsity team will hit the ice in West Salem for a scrimmage session Thursday with the host West Salem Panthers and Deforest Norskies.
The Junior Varsity squad will kick off its season at RACA Monday (November 22) against Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds and both teams will make the trip to Wisconsin Rapids to play the Red Raiders the following day.
First home game for the Cheavers will be against the Onalaska Hilltoppers on Nov. 30.