Fun but stressful week of WIAA playoffs

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

Jimmy D’s Notes

  • 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.  

Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds  

  • 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.

RWD Cheavers 

  • 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. 

Badger Lightning  

  • 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. 

Go get it boys. 

Thunderbirds end skid against Viroqua

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds broke out of a long skid with a 6-3 non-conference win at Pierce Park Pavilion against the visiting Viroqua Blackhawks on Jan. 18.  

The T-Bird cranked up the offense firing a season high 48 shots against the Viroqua keeper while senior Andrew Schaetzl kicked out 28 of 31 in the Baraboo/Portage goal to help his team snap an eight-game losing streak and collect its first win in exactly a month. 

Blackhawks hit the scoreboard first and carried a 1-0 lead into the middle period before the home side scored three straight. However, two Hawks’ goals in the final three minutes of the period had teams even at 3-3 heading to the third. 

First year Nathan Gneiser scored the game winner 3:09 into the final period and he also ended up with a couple assists and sophomore Carson Zick picked up a set up on three goals. Juniors Kyle Buelow, Luke Schweda and Landon Olson had goals as well as seniors Gabe Fitzwilliams and Oliver Scanlan, both seniors also adding an assist. Senior Kyle Poole also had a helper in the contest.  

The win boosted the team’s overall record to 3-14 but the assignments ahead will be tough as the Madison West Division leading Madison Edgewood Crusaders are scheduled to entertain the Thunderbirds on Jan. 20 and the Sauk Prairie Eagles will be in town on Jan. 25. 

Spirited rally in finale could build momentum for Thunderbirds

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds begin the 2020-21 WIAA varsity hockey tournament tonight (Feb. 2, 2021) with a chance to erase a tough memory from last season.

Thunderbirds wrapped up its regular season with a spirited albeit unsuccessful come from behind effort against Marshfield that showed what the team is capable of.

Down 4-0 early in the second period at Pierce Park Pavilion to the visiting Marshfield Tigers, the Thunderbirds began a long uphill slog back into the contest before ultimately falling 7-6 in overtime.

Earlier games saw the Thunderbirds capture a 5-2 win against the Janesville Bluebirds at Pierce Park Pavilion Jan. 21 before dropping a 7-3 decision two nights later to the Onalaska Hilltoppers, also on home ice.

Janesville Bluebirds 2 @ Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds 5

Teams played through two periods without a goal, but made up for that in a wild seven-goal third period.

Bluebirds hit the scoreboard first 4:13 into the final period but Campbell Koseor evened the score 40 seconds later from Oliver Scanlan and Gabe Fitzwilliams.

Luke Schweda gave the Thunderbirds its first lead from Alex Rietmann and Kyle Poole with 10:01 to play and goals by Fitzwilliams and Peyton Sloan 25-seconds apart clinched it near the halfway mark of the period. Assist on those went to Scanlan, Koseor, Schweda and Carson Zick.

Fitzwilliams fired a secod with 87 seconds to play, from Scanlan and Rietmann and after opening the scoring, the Bluebirds finished it off with 31 seconds to go.

Andrew Schaetzl collected a 28-save win in goal for the T-Birds who outshot the Bluebirds 33-30.

 

Onalaska Hilltoppers 7 @ Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds 3

The Thunderbirds stayed with the Hilltoppers through the opening 17 minutes and led 1-0 after a late opening period goal scored by Schweda from Koseor and Luna Larson.

After an early second period goal for the Hilltoppers, Koseor had the Thunderbirds up again, from Scanlan and Larson.

The rest of the middle period belonged to the Hilltoppers who fired 22 shots at Schaetzl and grabbed a 4-2 lead  by the start of the third.

A 3-1 margin down the stretch carried the Hilltoppers to the win, Larson collecting his third point of the night with an unassisted goal to break up a stretch of six Hilltoppers goals.

Schaetzl faced 46 Onalaska shots while the Thunderbirds tested the visiting goaltender with 27.

Marshfield Tigers 7 @ Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds 6 (ot)

Ultimately it was another seven goals against and another loss to end the regular season, but the Thunderbirds showed the kind of heart and resiliency that could carry it to a positive start to the post season. Short version – This team doesn’t quit.

A crazy game saw teams combine for more than 100 shots on goal including 16 in a wild overtime period that ended with 2:36 to spare.

Tigers held a 16-10 edge on the shot clock through a period but more importantly built a 3-0 margin on the scoreboard. Things were just getting started though.

Tigers added another and when Fitzwilliams finally found an opening six minutes into the period, from Koseor and Scanlan, the Tigers quickly responded, restoring its four-goal cushion 45 seconds later.

Larson collected an unassisted goal just over a minute later and Koseor cut the gap to a pair in the final minute of the period from Fitzwilliams and Zick.

An unassisted Zick goal had the Thunderbirds within a shot and Fitzwilliams’ second of the contest tied the game 5:41 into the final period with help from Kosero.

Larson’s second gave the Tbirds its first and only lead of the contest with 2:35 to play, from Fitzwilliams and Zick but a shorthanded goal just seven seconds from the final buzzer robbed the Thunderbirds of a big celebration.

Tigers held a 21-14 edge in shots in a back and forth third period but Thunderbirds held a 9-7 margin in the extra frame.

Burke Schweda and Schaetzl shared the work in goal, combining to face 58 shots on the night while the Thunderbirds triggered a season high 43 the other way.

 

Overall – 7-11

Regional Final vs. Sun Prairie Cardinals

The Thunderbirds have had had some drastic highs and lows this season, but if inspired as it clearly was in the second half of the game against Marshfield, the team will not be outworked.

A blue-collar squad, the Thunderbirds are probably best suited for a close physical type contest, but again, the team showed it can go wide open with anyone as well.

The Cardinals sat our most of the regular season – at least as far as WIAA competition goes. There are four games listed on its official 2020-21 schedule, all played in the final week of the season and all losses.

Last season, the Thunderbirds played host to an opening round contest as well and had difficulty finding the mesh in a 3-1 loss to Madison Memorial. That shouldn’t be a problem tonight. The Thunderbirds were shutout twice this season, but both of those were in the first half of December and the Thunderbirds have collected 17 goals in its last four games.

Winner of this contest moves on to play top seeded Madison Edgewood on Thursday, but a nice perk for the Thunderbirds is that game is also scheduled to be played at Pierce Park Pavilion.

Thunderbirds fall short against Spartans

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

It doesn’t seem likely in a game that saw 11 goals, but the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds varsity hockey team ran into a hot goaltender when it really mattered in a 6-5 loss to McFarland Spartans at Pierce Park Pavilion Jan. 12.

Teams traded the lead back and four times, the Spartans scoring in bunches for the most part to take and retake control of the game.

Junior defenseman Luna Larson opened the scoring jut 2:02 into the contest from senior Campbell Koseor and freshman Dylann Carpenter.

The lead lasted just 1:24 as the Spartans struck for its first of three goals in 3:54 to grab control of the match.

Thunderbirds rallied back though as Larson continued his strong game, setting up junior Kyle Poole with 6:08 to play in the contest and adding the tying goal himself, from junior Courtney Dunnett with 1:56 to go, sending teams to the locker room even at 3-3. Junior Oliver Scanlan also picked up an assist.

Dunnett’s goal, from sophomore Luke Schweda and Pool gave the T-Birds another lead 59 seconds into the middle period but the Spartans tied it up just before the three minute mark and teams were once again even at the end of the middle frame.

Two goals in the opening three minutes of the third period gave the Spartans a 6-4 cushion and the Thunderbirds spent the rest of the game throwing all it had at the McFarland team trying to draw even.

Thunderbirds held a narrow 22-21 edge in shots heading to the third, but pounded the McFarland goal with 19 third period shots trying to get back into this game.

Ray Wheaton, in goal for the Spartans denied them until senior Gabe Fitzwilliams found a way past, Larson assisting for his fourth point of the contest. That goal came just 12 seconds from the final buzzer though and didn’t give the Thunderbirds enough time to put together the tying goal.

The loss dropped the Thunderbirds to 5-8 in regular season play.

Thunderbirds dominate shot clock but not scoreboard against Avs

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

The Baraboo/Portage Thunder engaged in another back-and-forth shootout at the Omni Center in Onalaska Thursday (January 7) night and came up a goal shy in a 6-5 decision against the La Crosse Aquinas/Holmen Avalanche.

Thunderbirds scored first, just 43 seconds into the match and carried a 3-2 lead out of the first period, but a pair of goals early in the second period flipped the script and it was the Thunderbirds playing catch up the rest of the way.

Luke Schweda fired the first goal, from Peyton Sloan. The Avs fought back to tie it twice in the period but the Thunderbirds had a quick response every time. Things got crazy in the seventh minute with three goals in 25 seconds, including Baraboo goals scored by Carson Zick and Kyle Poole.

Zick’s goal was a solo effort while Poole accepted help from Gabe Fitzwilliams and Luna Larson on his first of two goals.

Poole’s first of two goals is shown below.

An opening minute goal and another in the sixth minute of the period put the Avalanche on top,  Campbell Koseor responding to tie it from Alex Rietmen. The tie lasted just 40 seconds though before the Avs went up again, carrying a 5-4 cushion into the final period.

Poole’s second, from Sloan pulled the Thunder even at 5-5 with 9:05 to go in the contest, but the game winner came with 6:17 to play.

Thunderbirds had a whopping 39-18 edge in shots in the game, including a 19-4 margin in the middle period.

Andrew Schaetzl and Burke Schweda shared the work in goal for the Thunderbirds who have dropped two in a row since its come from behind win against Tomah/Sparta last Saturday. The team will get another Saturday night opportunity this week as the Waupaca Comets pay a visit to Pierce Park Pavilion for a 6 p.m. contest.

Thunderbirds fall to 4-7 with the loss and have eight games yet to play, at least five on home ice, the only trip scheduled so far behind down the ‘12’ to Sauk Prairie on Thursday.

Larson’s ot tally finishes massive Thunderbirds comeback

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds started 2021 with the type of effort that could be looked at later as a turning point in their season.

Entering the game against the 5-1 Tomah/Sparta squad, the Thunderbirds regrouped from a tough opening period and simply outworked their opponent for a 4-3 overtime win at Pierce Park Pavilion on Saturday (Jan. 2).

Simply said, the start couldn’t have been much worse as the Thunderbirds trailed 15-seconds into the contest and found themselves down 2-0 by the end of the third minute and 3-0 after a period.

Outshot 19-3 in the first period, the Thunderbirds appeared on its way to a rough night, but the road back started with a goal from Kyle Poole 7:27 into the middle period, from Oliver Scanlan.

The biggest goal of the contest for sure came from Campbell Koseor who tipped a perfect feed from Gabe Fitzwilliams to finish off a two-on-rush with the goal just seconds from the end of the middle period. Thunderbirds held a 12-8 edge in shots through the middle period and were fired up for the third with the late goal.

But, despite dominating the play, the Thunderbirds battled mostly on the wall moving the puck forward a few feet at a time and the

The defense played a key part on the offense, the forwards looking to get them the puck whenever possible, but some solid defensive play from the Tomah Sparta crew had lanes to the goal clogged constantly. The work finally paid off on a powerplay with 6:53 to go as Koseor got his stick on a point shot from Luna Larson, changing its direction enough to elude the Tomah keeper and tie the contest.

Larson ended the match himself with 1:21 to play in the eight-minute overtime session moving the puck up from the point and snapping it home in the top left corner.

Andrew Schaetzl collected the win in goal turning aside 31 of 34 shots in the contest and unbeaten on all 15 he faced in the final two periods and overtime. Despite dominating the play in the final two frames, Thunderbirds managed just 19 shots but owned a 4-2 margin in the overtime session. But Tomah/Sparta still held a 34-26 overall.

 

The win boosted the Thunderbirds to 4-6 overall and the team will look to get back to .500 with a pair of road games this week, at Beaver Dam against the Golden Beavers Tuesday at 7 p.m. and at the Omni Center in Onalaska Thursday against the La Crosse Aquinas/Holmen Avalanche with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.

Next home game for Baraboo/Portage will be played  on Saturday when the Waupaca Comets pay a visit at 6 p.m.

Below is some powerplay action for the Thunderbirds.

Koseor leads Thunderbirds past Warriors

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

Baraboo-Portage varsity Thunderbirds topped the 40-shot barrier and grabbed its third win of the season with a 4-1 decision against the Waupun Warriors at Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo Tuesday (Dec. 22).

Thunderbirds buried its opponent with a 23-4 advantage in shots in the opening period and jumped into a 2-0 lead with a pair of Campbell Koseor goals, his third and fourth of the season. The first was unassisted, Gabe Fitzwilliams and Kyle Poole chipping in on the other.

The second period was scoreless and the Warriors cut the gap to a goal with Quinn Bailey’s marker early in the final period but Thunderbirds put this one away with another pair in the second half of the period.

Fitzwilliams and Poole pulled the trigger and Koseor wrapped up a four-point game with assists on both. Other help came from Carson Zick and Fitzwilliams.

Andrew Schaetzl collected his third win of the season, stopping all but one of the 22 shots he faced in goal for the Thunderbirds, who peppered Tyler Fromolz with 44 shots at the opposite end.

The win boosted Thunderbirds’ overall record to 3-4 and squad will look to climb to the .500 mark on Tuesday (Dec. 29) with a trip to the Howard G. Mullett Ice Center in Hartland to take on the 5-3 Brookfield Stars with a 5 p.m. faceoff.

 

Thunderbirds smother Blackhawks’ offense in 6-2 win

After dropping its first three games of the season, the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds discovered a taste for winning, following up its first victory with a 6-2 decision against the Viroqua Blackhawks at Pierce Park Pavilion on Tuesday (Dec. 15).

Thunderbirds shut down the Blackhawks through the final two periods, turning a close 2-2 decision into a lopsided decision with two unanswered goals in each frame. On its way, the Thunderbirds smothered the Hawks, who collected seven shots in the first period to just seven more the rest of the way, while peppering the Viroqua keeper with 31 of its 38 shots in the contest.

Oliver Scanlan opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds in the eighth minute, from Gabe Fitzwilliams and Carson Zick. After the Hawks tied the score, Scanlan notched another, this time a shorthanded effort from Courtney Dunnett.

Viroqua rallied to tie it again late in the period but that was the team’s final goal in this one, Andrew Schaetzl collecting the win in goal.

Fitzwilliams’s fired the game winning marker on a powerplay in the opening minute of the second period with assists for Zick and Luna Larson and that stood up until late in the frame when Peyton Sloan connected with help from Zick and Kyle Poole.

Larson and Campbell Koseor scored the third period goals, Larson on a powerplay and assists for Fitzwilliams, Scanlan and Zick.

The win boosted the T-Birds to 3-2 on the season and set up its first meeting of the season two nights later with the RWD Cheavers at RACA in Reedsburg.

Thunderbirds hit win column and avenge loss to Mustangs

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds varsity hockey team got a rare chance to avenge a non-conference defeat with a 5-3 win against Menomonie Mustangs on Saturday (December 11).

The win by the same score Mustangs downed them in the season opener broke the Thunderbirds into the win column for the first time in four tries and on this night, the visitors never trailed.

It was a total team effort with five different goal scorers stepping up in the contest, beginning with junior Kyle Poole who finished with help from junior Luna Lavin and Alex Rietmann 6:41 into the contest.

The Mustangs pulled even 1:45 later but Campbell Koseor put the Thunderbirds into the lead spot again just 67 after that and they carried that lead into the middle period. Oliver Scanlan and Gabe Fitzwilliams had assists on the Koseor goal.

Fitzwilliams notched an unassisted goal 5:06 into the middle period, the fifth straight even strength goal of the game and the T-Birds collected big momentum late the frame with a ‘shorty’ off the stick of Rietmann.

Mustangs cut the lead to a pair early enough in the final period to at least entertain thoughts of a comeback, but Aidan Collins erased them just 35-seconds later, restoring the three-goal cushion from Carson Zick.

The Mustangs pulled one more back but with just 12 seconds left in the contest it was way too little and too late.

Andrew Schaetzl made his fourth start of the season in goal for the Thunderbirds, turning aside 28 shots to grab his first win of the campaign.

While the Thunderbirds moved to 1-3 on the season a busy Mustangs team fell to 2-4. They were scheduled to meet Eau-Claire North Huskies on Tuesday while the Thunderbirds were on the road the same night to take on the Viroqua Blackhawks and on Thursday they will reignite the annual rivalry against RWD Cheavers at the Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA).

Thunderbirds can’t recover from early deficit

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

saukhockey.info

The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds varsity hockey team suffered a 5-3 defeat against the Menomonie Mustangs in the season opener for both teams Tuesday at Pierce Park Pavilion.

After the visiting Mustangs opened  a 3-1 first period lead, both teams added single goals in the final two periods. The Thunderbirds twice pulled back to within a goal, but the visitors extended the lead again both times.

Carson Zick scored the first period goal for the Thunderbirds with help from Kyle Poole and Courtney Dunnett. The second period marker came from Luke Schweda on a set up from Alex Rietmann and the other Baraboo/Portage goal was scored by Peyton Sloan with Poole and Dunnett helping out once again.

Andrew Schaetzel may have been the busiest player in the game, facing 40 shots in goal for the Thunderbirds.

Baraboo-Portage gets a week to prepare for its next contest scheduled for next Tuesday at Mosinee City Recreation Center against the Mosinee High School team.