Fun but stressful week of WIAA playoffs

By Jim den Hollander  


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. 

Eagles get by Thunderbirds to stay perfect

By Jim den Hollander


The Sauk Prairie Eagles remained perfect following a 5-2 win on home ice at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) against the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds on Jan. 14.

The Eagles, who boosted their overall record to 7-0 with the win, outshot the T-Birds 13-3 in the opening 17-minutes and used that to build a 2-0 cushion.

Erik Peterson and Micah Hanson fired the goals with assists for Caeben Schomber, Hakon Peterson and Erik Peterson.

The lone goal of the middle period came from Campbell Koseor on a feed from Oliver Scanlan to get the Thunderbirds within one with a period to play.

Hanson’s second of the game was the game winner, 4:02 into the final period, but Luna Larson had the Thunderbirds within one again at the 8:51 mark.

Luke Mast restored the two-goal cushion for the Eagles 15 seconds later and Nick Mast added insurance with 4:50 to go, from Hakon Peterson.

Andrew Schaetzl was kept busy in the Thunderbirds’ goal, turning aside 39 of 44 Sauk Prairie shots, including an 18-5 margin for the home team in the final period. Kaden Stracke collected the win in goal for the Eagles, handling all but a pair of the 17 shots he faced.

Thunderbirds fall short against Spartans

By Jim den Hollander


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


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


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.

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.

Larson hat trick, Hinz shutout lead Thunderbirds to win

Three goals from sophomore Luna Larson and an 18-save shutout for senior goaltender Dane Hinz – his third of the season – helped the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds to a 5-0 win against the visiting West Salem Panthers at Pierce Park Pavilion Tuesday night.

Senior Josh Beale notched the other two T-Bird goals while junior Campbell Koseor collected three assists, senior Cameron Logan set up a pair and single assists went to seniors George Fitzsimmons, Will Gunnell and Beale.

Larson fired the game winner and lone goal of the first period with 1:28 to go in the session and both he and Beale fired second and third period goals as well.

The win pushed the home team over the .500 mark at 11-10-1 with just two games to go, both on the road.

RWD will host the Thunderbirds Friday at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena in Lake Delton and the Thunderbirds will wrap up its regular season Tuesday with another conference match at Beaver Dam.

Seeding for Sectional playoffs will take place this weekend.