Brandt comes up big for Cheavers against Hilltoppers

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The RWD (Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells/Mauston) Cheavers played its first game on home ice Tuesday but packed a season’s worth of highs/lows and excitement into a 5-4 overtime win against the visiting Onalaska Hilltoppers.  

The win was the second straight for the Cheavers and boosted the record to 2-2 on the season after a couple tough one-goal losses to open the season. 

It took some grit and determination to grab this on as, despite a 58-39 edge in shots, some unlucky bounces around their own crease forced the team to battle back from one-goal deficits three times, the last one with 94 seconds to play sending the game to overtime.  

Junior Caden Brandt was to go-to guy on offense, and he stepped up with that tying goal as well as the overtime game winner for the Cheavers.  

The tying goal came on a perfectly executed give-and-go play Brandt to senior CJ Pfaff and back to Brandt giving him some space in the neutral zone. He split the defense to get in alone and deposited the puck into cage with time winding down on a five-minute man advantage for the home team. Junior Logan Demars also collected an assist on the play.  

The overtime game winner came after a behind the net pass from sophomore Brady Baldwin to Brandt at the top of the crease and Pfaff had the other assist on that one as well. Baldwin also set up Brandt on the goal that tied the game at 3-3 and the first two RWD goals came from Pfaff with a set up for Brandt and Mitchell Henke with help from Iszak Elder. 

Junior Colin Comeau fired the first two Hilltoppers’ goals with single assists for senior Quinn Anderson and junior Gavin Schuster. Later Schuster put the Hilltoppers up 3-2 from Comeau and senior Peyton Jones and sophomore Thomas Bryant fired the fourth goal unassisted.  

It didn’t show up on the game sheet, but goaltenders Cooper Oakes from RWD and Abraham Finch of the Hilltoppers, both seniors, came up with some big stops in the contest. 

The win was a massive one for RWD who have only played the Hilltoppers in regular season play three times, all losses in the team’s history. 

Along with the game’s highs and lows, an emotional tribute to original RWD team member Alex Yacko between the first and second period. Yacko, who scored some huge goals for the RWD program, passed away suddenly shortly before the start of the season. His parents and siblings were all on hand for the brief ceremony and stayed to cheer the Cheavers on to the win.

Members of the RWD varsity hockey team joined the parents of Alex Yacko on the ice for an emotional tribute and moment’s silence for an original member of the RWD team, Alex Yacko.

The Cheavers move on to its first Badger West Conference game Friday playing host to the Madison Edgewood Crusaders and the 0-2 Hilltoppers will get a week to prepare for its first contest on home ice, although as the visiting team against the Avalanche who share the Omni Center in Onalaska, on Dec. 7. 

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.

RWD third at Onalaska tournament

After dropping its opening game Friday (July 23), the RWD Cheavers charged back with three straight wins to wrap up third spot at a summer tournament at the Onalaska Omni Center.

Led by a solid group of incoming seniors, it was a fun weekend with Billy Oakes stepping in behind the bench with RWD Head Coach Neil Mattson away for the weekend.

The RWD Cheavers picked up wins in three of four games to claim third place at a tournament in Onalaska July 23-25.

After wrapping up a 2-1 record through three round robin games, the Cheavers finished second in its pool and grabbed a 3-1 win against former Badger North Conference rival Waunakee Warriors in a battle of second place teams Sunday morning.

The Cheavers dropped a 4-0 decision to the Brookfield Stars on Friday night before returning Saturday to earn a 7-1 decision against the Aquinas/Holmen Avalanche in that team’s home barn, then clinching second place with a 4-1 win against the Viroqua Blackhawks Saturday evening.

Friday

RWD Cheavers 1 Brookfield Stars 4

After the tournament Sunday, Oakes said he thought RWD came out a bit flat on Friday, finding its game in the final 15-minutes but already out of it by then as the Stars scored twice in each of the first two frames.

Cheavers were kept off the shot clock entirely through the first period and sophomore Brady Baldwin counted the team’s only goal unassisted on one of four third period shots.

Senior goaltender Cooper Oakes kicked out a dozen shots for the Cheaves and freshman Alex Griebe came on later to save another seven.

Saturday

RWD Cheavers 7 Aquinas/Holmen Avalanche 1

RWD bounced back with a big win Saturday morning, scoring twice in the opening period, including its first just 2:05 into the contest by junior John Scott, his first of three in the game.

Scott also fired the other first period goal, the game winner, late in the period, senior Clayton Pfaff and junior Caleb Eastman counting middle period markers.

Griebe went the distance in goal, turning aside 17 of 18 shot, the only one to get by him coming early in the third.

The Cheavers responded with three more goals, from Eastman, Scott and finally, senior Mitchell Henke. Senior Carter Scully along with juniors Nate Stando and Logan Demars both collected assists in the contest.

RWD Cheavers 4 Viroqua Blackhawks 1

Saturday night, Cheavers blasted off quickly again, Pfaff firing an unassisted regular strength goal before the end of the opening minute and Yevgeny Dedun converted a feed from Baldwin on a powerplay less than a minute later to add the game winner.

Viroqua pulled one back late in the opening period but that was as close as they got, Baldwin and Scott notching unassisted goals in the middle period to put this one away.

Oakes picked up the win in goal for the Cheavers, stopping all but one Viroqua shot.

RWD Cheavers 3 Waunakee Warriors 1

A change in the Badger Conferences for the upcoming season sees an end to 11 seasons as rivalry with the Waunakee Warriors, but seeing those purple jerseys still gets the Cheavers fired up.

That was certainly the case Sunday with a more chippy and emotional contest than the other three.

RWD notched the first goal once again, Eastman relaying a feed from Stando with 3:33 to go in the opening segment, but a goal in the final minute of the second had the Warriors at the break.

The Cheavers came out fired up for the final 15 minutes and despite a trio of third period infractions, it was the Cheavers providing all the offense as well.

Henke sank the game winner from Baldwin and Scott’s fifth of the weekend added insurance a short time later.

Griebe kicked out 22 of 23 to pick up the win in goal.

Many of the Cheavers players will turn their focus to football, soccer or cross country as they prepare for the varsity fall seasons.

Captains practices for both RWD and Baraboo/Portage will kick off in early September at the Lake Delton Ice Arena and the first practice of the 2021-22 regular season will take place in early November.

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.

Cheavers split final two regular season contests

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

Tonight’s the night.

The RWD Cheavers varsity hockey team wrapped up its hockey season this past week and heads into do-or-die action starting tonight in one of three Regional finals for WIAA Division 1 Section 3 .

But first, let’s wrap up the regular season.

The Cheavers had three games scheduled for its final week, but the first, a final home game, against the Janesville Bluebirds was cancelled due to threatening weather. The second half of a scheduled home-and-home set was played in Janesville Thursday (Jan. 28), the Cheavers collecting a 3-1 win. On Saturday, the season ended on a down note at the Omni in Onalaska as the home Hilltoppers handed the Cheavers a 7-2 defeat.

RWD Cheavers 3 @ Janesville Bluebirds 1

Despite a 13-8 edge in shots through the opening 17-minutes, the Cheavers found themselves looking up at a 1-0 deficit after a period in Janesville.

Senior Danny Ely pulled his team even, from senior defender Connor Schyvinck and sophomore Caden Brandt near the halfway mark of the middle period and then added another, unassisted about six minutes later.

Freshman Brady Baldwin added insurance with the lone goal of the third period from juniors Clayton Pfaff and Trevor Slaght.

Junior goaltender Cooper Oakes stopped 25 of 26, including everything he saw in the final two periods to collect the win in goal. The overall shots on goal were 32-26 in favor of the Cheavers but the Bluebirds held an 8-5 margin through the final period.

 

RWD Cheavers 2 @ Onalaska Hilltoppers 7

This game was settled in the opening period as the host Hilltoppers rolled to a 5-0 lead, outshooting its guests by a 13-4 margin.

To its credit, the Cheavers regrouped and played even the rest of the way.

Cheavers trailed 6-0 before junior Mitchell Henke found the mesh 3:58 from the end of the second period with help from freshman Brady Baldwin.

Caden Brandt notched his 23rd goal of the regular season just past the halfway mark of the final period from Schyvinck but Onalaska restored its five-goal cushion just a few minutes later.

Overall, the Hilltoppers held a 36-22 edge in shots.

 

Overall – 11-7-0

The Cheavers are not exactly limping to the post season but consider the team’s record following the Monk’s Cheeseburger Classic win (7-2) and the second half (4-5) is not so flattering. There have certainly been some peaks and valleys in that stretch, but the bottom line for RWD is the team enters the post season with a 0-0-0 record and a chance to redeem itself from the drop of the puck.

As the number six seed, the Cheavers will host the 11th seeded Middleton Cardinals tonight (Tuesday, February 2). It’s certainly strange seeing this team ranked this low, but this has been a crazy year and the Cardinals have only five games played on its schedule – the only win coming this past Wednesday when the team shutout Sun Prairie 3-0. Ironically, that game was also placed at Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) where the Cardinals and Cheavers will lineup tonight.

Winner of tonight’s game will play at Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center (SPARC) on Thursday night. The locals would love a shot at redemption against the Sauk Prairie Eagles who spanked them 7-1 on Jan. 12.

First, they must get by the Cardinals.

Scully lifts JV Cheavers to win with third period tally

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

The RWD junior varsity Cheavers set the tone for their varsity brothers with a 2-1 edge against the host Somerset Spartans at Somerset Ice Arena Friday (January 8) night.

The game saw one goal in each period, RWD notching the opening and closing markers with the home team collecting the lone goal of the middle period.

Junior Gary Wiles stopped all but one of the 26 shots he faced in goal for the Cheavers who were outshot in the game 26-17, including a 15-3 edge in the middle period.

Junior Mitchell Henke opened the scoring with the lone goal of the first period with an assist for Yevgeny Dedun.

Carter Scully’s unassisted goal in the third period was the game winner.

The JV Cheavers were also scheduled to play early Saturday in Baldwin against the Baldwin-Woodville Hawks

Carter Scully’s third period goal lifted the JV Cheavers to a win in Somerset Friday.