High expectations for Cheavers in 2021-22

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

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. 

RWD Cheavers varsity players take a break from practice for a chalk talk from Head Coach Neil Mattson.

JV Cheavers down Hilltoppers 4-1

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

RWD Cheavers junior varsity hockey team finished its 2020-21 campaign on a winning note Saturday (January 30), collecting a 4-1 win at the Omni in Onalaska against the host the Onalaska JV Hilltoppers.

Prior to that, the Cheavers saw a 2-1 edge turned into a narrow 3-2 defeat I Janesville on Thursday night.

In the earlier game, the Cheavers trailed 1-0 after a period but second period goals by Caleb Eastman and Yevgeny Dedun pushed the visitors into the lead. John Scott collected assists on both goals with other help from Carter Scully and Mark Othmer.

The hosts rallied to tie the game near the halfway mark of the third period and snatched the win away with a goal 75 seconds from the final buzzer.

Brendan Karas stopped 21 shots in goal for the Cheavers.

At Onalaska the Cheavers grabbed a 2-0 first period lead with Eastman and Dedun again providing the goals. Mitchell Henke and Dylan Conroy collected assists.

That lead stayed in tact until the host Hilltoppers cut the lead in half 13 seconds into the final period.

Conner Putz restored the two-goal cushion at the 6:45 mark from Eastman and Izak Elder finished it off with an unassisted powerplay goal about two minutes later.

Gary Wiles and Karas shared the win, splitting the work in goal and turning aside 20 of 21 shots while the Cheavers fired 33 at the Hilltoppers’ goal.

Crusaders take back and forth game 4-3 against JV Cheavers

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

The RWD junior varsity Cheavers traded the lead four times with the visiting Madison Edgewood Crusaders through the first two periods, but the last changed left the Crusaders up and they held on for a 4-3 margin at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) on Tuesday (Jan. 5) night.

The Cheavers hit the board first with an unassisted goal from Mark Othmer 52 seconds into the contest and that held up until two goals in just over two minutes late in the period gave the Crusaders a 2-1 margin heading to the second.

Caleb Eastman evened the score 4:23 into the middle period from Othmer and the Cheavers grabbed another lead with Eastman’s second, from Izak Elder and Carter Scully less than three minutes later.

Crusaders scored twice in 13 seconds late in the period and once again carried the single-goal cushion into what turned out to be a scoreless third period.

Gary Wiles started in goal for the Cheavers, turning aside eight shots in the first half of the game before Brendan Karas took over, stopping 15 shots through the second half.