Pawlak and Dutton among Lightning leaders

By Jim den Hollander


Short on numbers, but big on guts and intensity, the Badger Lightning enjoyed what could be considered a turnaround campaign in 2020-21.

The fourth and final part of a summer project to compile records and statistics for the four Sauk County varsity hockey teams wrapped up just a few days behind schedule with the completion of the Badger Lightning.

Because 2010-11 was the start of both the RWD and Baraboo/Portage programs, that was selected as the starting point for all four teams. Unfortunately, there were no statistics for the Badger Lighting in 2010-11 on, an amazing source for high school hockey in Wisconsin, these ones go back to 2011-12.

That season, the Lightning (then probably known as the Badger Thunder) put together an 11-11-2 record, the only .500 or better record for the squad which has compiled an overall record of 59-145-8 in the past decade.

The leading scorer, but a wide margin and the only skater with a three-digit point total in that stretch is Rachel Pawlak who racked up a total of 64 goals and 77 helpers for 141 points. The is the overall leader in all three categories – goals, assists and points. The leader in penalty minutes is Emma Capener with 73, but she will be surpassed likely early this season by Bella Bowden, just four minutes behind with two seasons yet to play.

Paige Pawlak sits second overall with 34 goals and 48 assists for 82 points, one more than Kathryn Vander Schaff. Kayla Capener, an all-State Honorably Mention skater this past season is fourth with 23 goals and 39 assists for 62 points after her sophomore season. Rounding out the top five is Kaylee Engel from Lavalle, the Northland College sophomore wrapping up her varsity tenure with 29 goals and 55 points.

Bowden will make a mark on the points list as well, currently 12th on the list with 25 goals and 35 points, she is just 10 goals away from behind second in that category.

In goal, Jamie Dutton leads most of the categories, including minutes (3364:12); wins 21, shots (2190) and saves (1975). Gabby Christensen is a close runner up in most of those stats including 2135 shots and 1917 saves.

This past season, despite being a shortened campaign, the 6-11-0 record for the Lightning marked its most wins since the 2014-15 season. Among the highlights, along with Capener’s all-state mention was the team’s first shutout since Jan. 31, 2015, when Katelin Elder kicked out the only shot she faced in a 1-0 win against the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers at Pierce Park Pavilion Feb. 11.

You can’t get much more of a team shutout though as the defense limited the Golden Beavers opportunities and the team’s other goaltender, first-year Alyssa Gada, took full advantage of a chance to shake off the pads, pacing the offense with a pair of goals.

The Lightning had just nine skaters in the contest and all nine collected points – eight of them contributing a goal.

The team’s longest winning streak was five games, reached twice, Dec. 13-28, 2011, and again Jan. 31 – Feb. 10, 2014.

The longest losing skid – 22 games — not only carried through parts of three seasons, but also three coaches. It started with the final two games of 2017, beginning Feb. 9 with Rick Capener as head coach, and finally ended in the second game of the 2018-19 season with Tasha Zagorodnikova calling the shots. In between, Sara Durst was behind the bench for the 2017-18 season.

The win was a 10-3 decision against the Medford Raiders, one of two teams the Lightning have never lost to. Beaver Dam Golden Beavers is the other.

The new season will officially begin for the Lightning with its first practice on Nov. 8 and the regular season will kick off with a Nov. 26-27 tournament at Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo (opposition and times are still TBA. The first league Badger Conference contest will be Dec. 3 against Rock County Fury at Monroe SLICE.


Engel surprised by coaches leaving Northland College

With files from Northland College.

When Kaylee Engel announced she would be attending Northland College in the fall, Head Coach Kelly Rider played a big part in that decision.

A recent announcement though from the College has Rider leaving the program.

 Kelly Rider has stepped down from her position as the head coach of the women’s hockey program at Northland College to pursue other professional opportunities.

Rider was the first ever women’s hockey coach at Northland.  She started the program in 2015 and recently saw her original recruiting class graduate this past season.  In her second year in charge, Rider’s program beat Adrian College who was ranked #2 in the country and coming off of an appearance in the NCAA National Championship.  Rider improved the program year after year and in 2019 guided the Jills in their inaugural season into the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which is regularly regarded as one of the top hockey conferences in the country. 

“It’s been an honor to be part of the building of Jills hockey with all of our players the past 5 years,” said Rider.  “I’m proud of each player’s individual growth on and off the ice and thankful for all their time and efforts. It’s been special to watch the development and growth as a program, from the first commitment, the first game, the first win, the first graduates, and now the next generation of Jills hockey. I’m excited to see all that the program and players continue to accomplish.”

Engel said Rider and her Assistant, Kaylee Harnen played a big part in her ultimate decision to become a Lumberjill and the news of her leaving the program came as a surprise to her.

“(I was) very surprised, but I wish them the best in the future,” said Engel in a typed interview.

“Coach Rider and Coach Harnen both had a big influence on my decision to go to Northland. Coach Harnen helped me so much throughout the recruiting processes and they both welcomed me with open arms.”

While wishing the coaches well, Engel is determined to take advantage of the opportunity that she has landed no matter who is being the bench.

“I have been able to talk to many players on the team, both returning and incoming and we are all very excited to see where the hockey program will go and are very excited to play this upcoming season,” said Engel.

“Coach Rider has been an instrumental figure in constructing our first ever women’s hockey program and we wish her luck in her next chapter,” commented Interim Athletic Director Seamus Gregory.  “Through her hard work she made what was essentially a dream become a reality. Northland College Women’s Hockey is one of the pillars of our department with a thriving roster and from the diligent efforts of Coach Rider it will remain that way forever. The student athletes we have on our current roster and our incoming players will continue the strong tradition she built and move the program forward in a very positive direction in the WIAC and beyond.”

A national search is currently underway for the head coaching position.  The Jills will be returning for their second year in the WIAC, and they have already announced a large recruiting class from across North America. 

“We have an unbelievable hockey community here in the City of Ashland,” commented Gregory.  “The support is phenomenal for both our hockey programs and we look forward to the national search for our next Head Coach.”

The Badger Lightning captain this past season, Engel is one of four players with Sauk County ties to make the jump to the NCAA Tier 3 level this fall.

Jordan O’Connor who collected 20 wins in goal for the Sauk Prairie Eagles varsity team and helped them reach the Sectional semis will be a rival for Engel, patrolling the crease for the UW-River Falls Falcons in the WIAC this season.

Reedsburg native Julianna Teske, who played AAA hockey with the Madison Capitols before attending high school in Warroad, MN, committed to play at Augsberg University in the MIAC this fall.

Sebastian Frank attended Wisconsin Dells High School and played his freshman season with the RWD program before moving on to a junior stint in the USPHL with the Minnesota Mullets recently committed to play in the MIAC as well, with Gustavus Adolphus.

Engel looks forward to next chapter in hockey career

After the emotions of ‘Senior Night’ the previous week, Kaylee Engal and the five other

Kaylee Engel, shown here in Tuesday’s home game, will be heading to Northland College in Ashland this fall.

Badger Lightning varsity seniors seemed able to relax and enjoy their final home game Tuesday at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena.

It was nice for them to wrap up the home schedule with a win – their fifth of the season. For Engal its not the end, just the end of a chapter as her hockey career will continue in the fall when she attends Northland College in Ashland.

The move to college hockey helps Engal accomplish a goal she set for herself as a youngster, playing youth hockey with the Reedsburg Polars.

“Yeah, I started with the Polars,” said Engel. “That’s kind of when I really wanted to play (at college), because I watched the Badgers all the time, so I wanted to play college hockey when I was super young. I played Polars, played with the boys as much as I could. The boys I think pushed me the most to be the player I could be because I was the only female on the team a lot of years.

“Then I played with the girls, my eighth grade year (bantam) and continued on with them.”

Engel said she found some extra curricular hockey in the off season to help her raise her game a bit too.

“I played Wisconsin Junior Stars last year on a AAA team, so I went to a lot of Showcases and stuff. I started touring colleges and Northland was the one that stuck out the most.” Engel said she liked the small size of the Ashland school and the fact it offered the majors she was looking for as she hopes to one day to return to school as a physical education instructor.

The Northland Jills moved conferences this season, playing in the WIAC which means local friends and family won’t have too far to travel to see Engel in action.

With the college stuff behind her, Engel can now focus on wrapping up her final varsity season. The close-knit squad knows their chances are slim after a five-win season, but Engel said they will give it all they have.

“Coming off a big win and another game Friday that we should win, we’ll really have some good momentum going into the playoffs.”

An article on the post season matchups for all of the area varsity teams will be coming shortly on this website.