Thunderbirds find scoring touch and wins

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

It may or may not have been a Christmas gift, but the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds varsity hockey team returned from the Break having finally found a scoring touch and as a result, a way to break into the win column. 

The Thunderbirds dropped all nine contests before the Break and for good reason, having scored just two goals in that stretch of games. 

In the six games since the Break, Thunderbirds have found the mesh 14 times and as a result, broke into the win column twice.  

First up was a three-game tournament at Stoughton’s Mandt Arena and while the team was able to become involved offensively, it took three tries before the first win arrived.  

After dropping a tough 5-4 decision against the host Stoughton Vikings on Dec. 29, the Thunderbirds met up with the Beloit Memorial Purple Knights and fell 6-2. 

On the final day of the year, Thunderbirds snapped their 11-game season opening skid with a 4-2 decision against the Milton Red Hawks beginning some early New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

Following that, Thunderbirds fell 3-1 to the host Black River Falls Tigers on the road, then fell to 0-6 in Badger West Conference play with an 8-1 loss against the host Sauk Prairie Eagles at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) on Friday. 

Wrapping up a tough stretch of six straight road contests (seven were scheduled but a match at the Omni against the Avalanche was postponed Dec. 22.) the Thunderbirds made the trek to Hartmeyer Arena in Madison and collected a 3-1 edge against the Madison LaFollette/East Lakers, wrapping up a solid and promising 2-4 stretch, all on the road.

Leading the offense through the stretch was junior Peyton Sloan with four goals including the team’s first game winner of the season. Freshman Wyatt Jost chipped in three assists while sophomore Dylann Carpenter and freshman Jordi Beale both scored twice. One of Beale’s goals was also a game winner. 

Junior Landon Olson collected a goal and assist, freshman Nathan Gneiser and sophomore Bodie Thompson both set up a pair. Juniors Luke Schweda and Kyle Buelow both scored a goal with single assists for freshmen Wade Zemanovic and Thomas Sarnow. 

There were no stats available from the game in Stoughton against Beloit Memorial. 

Sophomore goaltender Burke Schweda continued his torrid pace between the pipes as well. In the five games that had statistics available the young goalie kicked out 219 of 237 shots for a dazzling .924 Save Percentage. 

Thunderbirds are scheduled to play on home ice for the first time since Dec. 20 with another Badger West Conference game tonight (Thursday, Jan. 12) against the Oregon Panthers. In their previous meeting in Oregon Dec. 13, the Panthers collected an 8-0 win. 

Schweda ends goal drought for Thunderbirds

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds junior Luke Schweda snapped a stretch of more than four games without a goal when he converted a feed from freshman Thomas Sarnow Tuesday (Dec. 6) at State Line Ice Arena (SLICE). 

Unfortunately, the lone goal of the middle period wasn’t enough to stay with the Cheesemakers who collected their first ever Badger West Conference win with a 4-1 decision.  

The host Cheesemakers scored twice in the opening period, juniors Ethan Rosenstiel and Wyatt Janecke pulled the trigger before Schweda notched the first Thunderbirds goal since the season opening game late in the second period.  

Janecke added a clincher 7:07 into the final period and senior Seth Brandt padded the margin just over a minute later. 

Shots on goal were not kept for the game which is a shame as Thunderbirds sophomore goaltender Burke Schweda may be on track for facing the most shots in the state this season. 

Thunderbirds fell to 0-6 overall and 0-3 in the Badger West with the loss and will face a tough challenge on Pierce Park Pavilion Saturday when the RWD Cheavers (2-3, 0-2 Badger West) pay a visit. 

Sauk County varsity teams rolling into season

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

Here we go! 

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. 

Jimmy D’s all-Saukhockey.info varsity team

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

Jimmy D’s Notes

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. 

First Line  

Forwards  

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. 

Defense  

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. 

Goaltender  

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.  

Second Line  

Forwards  

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. 

Defense  

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.  

Goaltender  

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. 

Third Line  

Forwards 

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. 

Defense  

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. 

Goaltender(s) 

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. 

Fourth Line  

Forwards  

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. 

Defense. 

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. 

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. 

Rough final period costly for varsity Thunderbirds

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Baraboo Thunderbirds grabbed leads twice but it was Milton Redbirds using a dominant final 17 minutes to rally for a 3-2 win at the Badger Challenge Saturday at the Waunakee Ice Pond. 

Thunderbirds scored first and controlled the shot clock in both the first and second periods in the battle of fifth place teams from the Badger West and Badger East Conferences, but the score was even at 1-1 after the first and 2-2 heading to the third period. 

Sophomore Carson Zick notched the first of the contest for the Thunderbirds 2:14 into the game, unassisted but senior Gannon Kilgora equalized or the Redbirds 66 seconds later. Baraboo held an 11-8 edge in shots in the period. 

In the middle period the Thunderbirds scored first again, first-year Nathan Gneiser pulling the trigger with help from juniors Luke Schweda and Peyton Sloan. 

Redbirds rallied to tie it again with a goal from sophomore Ty Johnson and Baraboo/Portage had the edge in shots again 10-8. 

The Redbirds flipped the tables in the final frame, outshooting the Thunderbirds 15-5 and junior Colter Thorn gave the Badger East squad its lone win of the day with his goal in the period’s second minute. 

Senior goaltender Andrew Schaetzl turned in a 28-save effort for Thunderbirds who unfortunately saw its losing streak stretched to eight games with the loss. 

The local squad returns to action Tuesday with a home game against the Viroqua Blackhawks starting at 7:30 p.m. 

Schaetzl kept busy for T-Birds at tournament

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds turned in some solid efforts but were unable to snap its losing streak in a couple games at a four-team holiday event hosted by Arrowhead Warhawks Dec. 29-30. 

Playing at the Howard G. Mullett Ice Center in Hartland, the Thunderbirds dropped its opening contest 4-2 against the host Warhawks, then fell 2-0 in the Consolation final the following day against the Sheboygan Red Raiders.  

In the opening game, sophomore Carson Zick pulled the T-Birds even at 1-1 from junior Peyton Sloan and first year Jordi Beale 4:49 from the first period buzzer. The Warhawks moved in front again though 38 seconds later and added another before the end of the opening period for a 3-1 cushion. 

After a scoreless middle frame, senior Oliver Scanlan made it a one-goal game again 7:40 into the third with help from juniors Landon Olson and Luke Schweda. The Warhawks restored its two-goal edge a couple minutes later. 

The close score flattered the Thunderbirds a bit, thanks to a standout effort in goal by senior Andrew Schaetzl who kicked out 33 of 37 in a game that saw the Thunderbirds outshot by a 37-8 margin.  

The other game was also close, the Homestead Highlanders earning a 4-3 edge against the Red Raiders. With that result, the Thunderbirds moved on to play Sheboygan while the Highlanders moved on to face the Warhawks the following day.  

Thunderbirds managed to keep the shots a little closer, but the Red Raiders held a 32-18 edge overall. But the result was not clinched until the Red Raiders nailed its second of the game with 1:46 to play. The game winner was scored two seconds from the end of the second period. 

The Championship game saw the host Arrowhead squad taking a 3-1 win against Homestead. 

The loss against Sheboygan was the fourth in a row for the Thunder who fell to 2-9 on the regular season.  

Thunderbirds head into the New Year with a quick flurry, playing a Badger West Conference match at Sauk Prairie Monday (Jan. 3) and a home game against Black River Falls Tigers the following night. 

Badger West this week

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

A busy week of Badger West head-to-head matches set up a crucial week ahead filled with big matches as the six teams hit the halfway mark on the conference schedule.  

Key game of the week saw the Madison Edgewood Crusaders making its home ice debut with a 6-1 win against the Sauk Prairie Eagles giving the visitors its first loss and first loss in what ended up being the lone game of the week for both teams.  

The Crusaders remain undefeated in conference play and enter this week with the Panthers as co-leaders entering their head-to-head battle on Monday (Dec. 13) which will be part of next week’s conference summary. 

The Panthers enjoyed a big week, starting with an 8-0 win at SLICE against Monroe Cheesemakers Monday and also including a 9-8 edge against Big Eight leading Janesville Bluebirds on home ice Tuesday. 

A scheduled meeting between the Eagles and Panthers was postponed and will now be played on Dec. 20. 

RWD hit the conference win columns with victories against both Baraboo Portage on home ice Tuesday and at SLICE in Monroe Thursday but wrapped up the win with a tough non-conference loss to Baldwin on Saturday. 

The Thunderbirds also dropped a pair of non-conference matches, both at Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo while the Cheesemakers lost a pair of conference matches as well as a road game against Muskego 

MADISON EDGEWOOD CRUSADERS (4-1, 2-0 Badger West) 

SAUK PRAIRIE EAGLES (3-1, 1-1 Badger West) 

These two are included together as their lone game of the week was against each other.

After dropping its season opener, the Crusaders have now racked up four straight including conference matches against both RWD and Sauk Prairie. 

It’s starting to look like this team could be in for a special season with an awesome group of seniors leading the way.  

J.J. Wiebusch was in on five of the six (2g, 3a) against the Eagles and has put up 15 points in the team’s four wins. Parker Murn and Cody Menzel both collected four points in the game and Aidan Lenz had three set ups. 

In goal, sophomore Rowan White and freshman Hayden Reuhl have combined on the 4-1 record, stopping all but 11 of 118 shots against so far.  

For the Eagles, the Mast brothers, senior Nick and junior Luke both played a part in the lone goal, and they have combined on 27 points through four games for the Eagles.  

After playing Oregon on Monday, the Crusaders will stay home to entertain the Cheesemakers Tuesday wrapping up the team’s pre-Christmas schedule. They have yet to play Baraboo/Portage and those two teams will meet twice in the second half of the schedule. 

The Eagles are scheduled to entertain Baraboo/Portage at SPARC on Tuesday and will be at RACA in Reedsburg to play RWD. The Eagles will remain busy, the moved game to Dec. 20 leaving them with still five games to play before the break. 

OREGON PANTHERS (6-1, 2-0 Badger West) 

The offensively gifted Panthers continued to wreak havoc on opposition goaltenders this past week, scoring another 17 goals and racking up two more wins.  

After the 8-0 shutout at SLICE Monday, the team played at home Tuesday and an equally impressive Janesville Bluebirds team its first loss 9-8 on Tuesday.  

The Oregon team, ranked among state coaches as one of the top Division 2 teams in the state, rolled into Tuesday’s game with 59 goals through its first seven games – an average of more than eight per match. The Bluebirds rolled in undefeated through its first three games with 29 goals scored so the 17 goals in the game was likely no surprise.  

The trio of forwards – junior Kyle Rohrer, sophomore Andrew Jicha and senior Joe Roemer continued their season opening barrage combining for 30 points in the two games.  

Rohrer notched eight goals and five assists in the two games and entered this week as the state leader with 41 points. Jicha had two goals and six assists and is currently second in state with 36 points while Roemer picked up two goals and seven helpers and currently sits third with 32 points so far. 

The Panthers are scheduled to start the win making the trip to LaBahn Arena Monday in a battle of the only two teams undefeated in conference play so far.  After hosting RWD the following night, the Panthers will wrap up the week with a non-conference contest against Fond du Lac Warbirds on Saturday in Oregon. Wrapping up the pre-Christmas portion of its schedule, the Panthers will travel to Sauk Prairie on Monday, Dec. 20. 

RWD CHEAVERS (5-5, 2-1 Badger West) 

RWD picked up a pair of big wins to climb over .500 both in conference and overall, but a tough 5-3 loss against the visiting Baldwin-Woodville Hawks on Saturday was a bit of a spoiler.  

RWD has shown itself to be well balanced so far, collecting 19 goals in the three games played while allowing just one in the two conference matches.  

Junior Caden Brandt and senior CJ Pfaff both collected eight points in the two wins while senior goaltender Cooper Oakes kicked out all but one of 30 shots faced and picked up a shutout. Brandt’s 19 point have him in a tie for ninth in state.  

The team has collected at least a point from 14 players in its first eight games.  

BARABOO/PORTAGE THUNDERBIRDS (1-5, 0-2 Badger West) 

A tough 8-0 loss against conference rival in Reedsburg was sandwiched between a pair of non-conference losses Monday against Madison LaFollette East Lakers (6-3) at Pierce Park Pavilion Monday and Thursday (10-4) against Brookfield Stars.  

The team was missing eight players due to illness, injury or other reasons against the Cheavers, and the team has not had a full lineup on the ice yet this season.  

Seniors Oliver Scanlan and Gabe Fitzwilliams have tried the lead the squad, both scoring in both non-conference matches, Scanlan ending the week with three goals and Fitzwilliams with two. The other goals came from junior Luke Schweda and freshman Jordi Beale. 

Thunderbirds have dropped four in a row and face a tough assignment Tuesday making the trip to Sauk Prairie to play the Eagles and staying on the road Thursday for another tough game against the Bluebirds, then returning home to Pierce Park Pavilion Saturday to face the Monroe Cheesemakers. 

MONROE CHEESEMAKERS (1-8, 0-3 Badger West) 

A rough week for the Cheesemakers saw the team dropping conference losses to both Oregon (8-0) and RWD (8-1) and wrapping up the week with an 8-1 loss on home ice against the Muskego Co-op Ice Force. The losses stretched the team’s current losing streak to five games and they have dropped their first three Badger West matches.  

Junior Nolan Bodenstein and sophomore Wyatt Janecke scored the Cheesemaker goals. The week ahead will be tough as well, beginning with a conference match at La Bahn Arena in Madison against the Crusaders Tuesday and a Saturday contest at Pierce Park Pavilion against Baraboo/Portage to wrap up the first half of the conference schedule. 

Oregon’s big three too much for understaffed Thunderbirds

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds found out Thursday (Dec. 2) the previous hype about the Oregon Panthers was deserved as they dropped their Badger West Conference opener 14-6 at the Oregon Ice Arena.  

The Panthers have been an offensive juggernaut out of the gate, led by a trio who currently hold down the top three spots in the WIAA state scoring race.  

Panthers had the game all but won after 17 minutes, carrying a 7-1 cushion to the middle period, but the Tbirds showed it can put some goals up in a hurry as well, outscoring its host 5-3, including four straight to end the period.  

Four more unanswered goals in the third carried widened the final gap for the Panthers.  

Sophomore Andrew Jicha scored five goals and set up a pair to stay in the state scoring lead with junior Kyle Rohrer who scored two and added five assists. Senior Kyle Roemer collected a goal and six assists to match the seven points of his mates. 

Thunderbirds, hampered by injuries and illness out of the gate, had just a dozen skaters on the scoresheet but spread out the scoring well with eight picking up at least a point.  

Junior Landon Olson led the way with a goal and two assists and senior Gabe Fitzwilliams fired a pair of goals. Freshman Nathan Gneiser and junior Luke Schweda both set up a pair, junior Peyton Sloan adding a goal and assist. Sophomores Carson Zick and Dylann Carpenter fired the other goals and senior Oliver Scanlan picked up an assist.  

The loss dropped the Thunderbirds to 1-2 on the season and 0-1 in Badger West Conference place while the Panthers boosted its record to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Badger West. (The Panthers played again Friday and picked up a 6-2 win against the McFarland Spartans). 

Thunderbirds face another road conference test Tuesday at RACA against the rival RWD Cheavers and will prepare for that with a home game Monday at Pierce Park Pavilion against the Madison LaFollette/East Lakers. 

T-Birds charge back for overtime win at Sparta

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds rallied all the way back from a 2-0 deficit on the road for a thrilling 3-2 in in overtime against the host Tomah/Sparta hockey team at Sparta Ice Arena on Tuesday (Nov. 30) night. 

Heading to the third period, the Thunderbirds had played five periods of varsity hockey this season without counting a goal, but that unfortunate streak came to an end 31 seconds into the final period as sophomore Carson Zick converted a feed from junior Luke Schweda and fired it home to cut the home team’s lead in half.  

Junior Kyle Buelow completed the comeback with 9:35 to play, from Zick and senior Oliver Scanlan. 

Still even at the end of regulation, teams headed to an eight-minute overtime period which came to a sudden halt when senior Gabe Fitzwilliams gave the Thunderbirds its first and only lead of the contest at the 3:13 mark. Zick picked up his third point of the contest with an assist along with Scanlan. 

Tomah/Sparta opened the scoring with a goal scored by freshman Parker Holloway, from sophomore Easton Armstrong and the other goal came in the middle period, scored by senior Charlie Joyce on a feed from sophomore Ethan Wildes.  

Senior Andrew Schaetzl evened his record at 1-1 with the overtime win, kicking out 25 of 27 shots while junior Jake Berry made 23 saves for Tomah/Sparta. 

Baraboo/Portage will be looking to carry the momentum from this win into its Badger West Conference opener Thursday night at Oregon with a 7 p.m. faceoff against the Panthers.  

Tomah/Sparta fell to 1-2 with the tough overtime loss and will also be back in action Thursday, traveling to West Salem to play the Panthers in a 7 p.m. puck drop.