Olson goal lifts Lightning past WVU 4-3

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

Reese Olson lifted the Badger Lightning to its first and only lead of the contest Tuesday night with 31 seconds to play at the South Wood County Recreation Center in Wisconsin Rapids and the team held on for a 4-3 edge against the host Wisconsin Valley Union.  

Reese Olson fired the game winner for the Badger Lightning with 31 seconds to play in the contest. Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer

The Lightning rallied back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to grab the win, boosting its WIAA season record to 2-1. 

Down by a pair after a period, the Lightning struck back in the middle period with goals from senior Lani Selje and junior Katelyn Allen 31 seconds apart and teams headed to the final period even at 2-2. 

First year Kyran Merrell collected assists on both goals and senior Kayla Capener helped on the second.  

Senior Sonia Dissanayake and first year Lily Cichy scored the first period Union goals and Dissanayake put her squad in front again 4:14 into the final period but Lightning senior Mallory Ruland pulled her team even again with an unassisted goal 3:10 later. 

That set the stage for Olson who took a feed from Capener before scoring the game winner.  

In goal, junior Alyssa Gada stopped 19 of 22 to grab her second win of the season while the Lightning sent 28 shots at junior Grace Lawrence. 

The meeting was the first between the Union and Lightning since 2016 and the Lightning evened the all-time series at 3-3-2 with their first win against the Stevens Point/Wisconsin Rapids cooperative effort since 2012. 

Lightning will try to stay hot when they return to Badger Conference play Saturday with a trip to Mandt Community Center in Stoughton Saturday (Dec. 3) for a 2:15 p.m. puck drop against the Icebergs and then travel to Sun Prairie Ice Arena Monday night for another Badger Conference match against the Cap City Cougars.  

Next home game for the Lightning will be on Friday when the Rock County Fury visits for yet another Badger Conference contest at Pierce Park Pavilion

Gada shutout leads Lightning past Golden Beavers

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team broke into the win column Saturday thanks in part to a 22-save shutout for junior goaltender Alyssa Gada and a goal from senior Mallory Ruland. 

That turned out to be the game winner and the lone goal in a 1-0 win for the Lightning.  

After Ruland’s goal, set up by first-year Kyran Merrell and sophomore Katelyn Allen with 4:46 to play in the opening period, it was all up to the goaltenders – Gada with the goose egg and Beaver Dams’ Emily Smedema who kicked out 35 of 36 at Pierce Park Pavilion in Baraboo.  

The win boosted the Lightning record to 1-1 while the Golden Beavers were playing their first game of the season. The game was the first Badger Conference game of the season for both teams. 

The Lightning will be back in action Tuesday, hitting the road for the first time this season to take on the Wisconsin Valley Union at South Wood County Recreation Center in Wisconsin Rapids in a 5 p.m. contest. The Lightning will stay on the road for three games with confrerence matches on Saturday at Stoughton’s Mandt Community Center against the Icebergs and a visit to Sun Prairie Ice Arena Monday Dec. 5 to play the Cap City Cougars.  

Next home game for the locals will be another conference tilt against the Rock County Fury at Pierce Park Pavilion Dec. 9. 

Alyssa Gada stopped everything the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers could fire against her in collecting her first win and first shutout of the 2022/23 season Saturday at Pierce Park Pavilion. Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer
Mallory Ruland (13) handles the puck off a faceoff Saturday with some help from teammate and fellow senior Lani Selje.(25). Photo Courtesy Jessica Othmer

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. 

Lightning turn in great effort but fall short against Cougars

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning came up with its best effort of the season on the right night, but it wasn’t quite enough to garner the WIAA playoff upset on Friday (Feb. 1) as they fell 3-0 to the rival Cap City Cougars at Sun Prairie Ice Arena. 

The Lightning served notice it was ready to step onto a plateau with the Badger Conference’s mid and upper pack teams this past season, pushing the Cougars, Viroqua Blackhawks, Icebergs (Stoughton area) and Rock County Fury to close decisions, but ultimately falling short in every contest. 

Inspired by a game just a couple weeks prior when the Lightning pushed the Cougars to overtime before ultimately succumbing 2-1, the six seeded Lightning entered playoff rematch ready and primed for an upset win. 

Out of the gate, the Lightning took it to the Cougs, outshooting them in a tight opening period by a 5-4 margin, but both teams were scoreless through the first 17 minutes. 

Sophomore Keegan Sanderfoot fired an unassisted regular strength goal halfway through the second period and added two more, both on the only two powerplays the Cougars had in the contest – one in the second period and the other in the third. 

Cougars’ junior Izzy Hahn stopped all 29 shots the Lightning put her way and Lightning sophomore Alyssa Gada stopped 23 of 26 for the Lightning. 

Members of the Badger Lightning have a quiet minute amongst themselves before shaking hands after their final game of the 2021-22 varsity WIAA season at Sun Prairie Ice Arena Friday night.

Unfortunately, the loss ended the season for the 9-14 Lightning while the Cougars (12-11-1) advanced to the WIAA Section 3 semi-finals at Viroqua on Wednesday (Feb. 23) against the host Blackhawks who moved into the round with an 11-0 win against the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers. 

The loss was especially tough for the team’s three seniors: Carson Blosenski, Signe Begalske and Emily Gunnel.

 The other semi will match the top seeded Metro Lynx who enjoyed a first-round bye against the fourth seeded Icebergs who earned 3-1 win against number five Rock County Fury. That game will also be on Wednesday. 

Both winners will move into the Sectional Championship game at Sun Prairie Ice Arena Saturday at 7 p.m. for one of four Sectional Championship spots in the State tournament next week. 

Badger Lightning varsity players head off the ice following a heartbreaking 3-0 loss in Sun Prairie Friday night.

Olson sinks lone goal in 3-1 Lightning loss

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team scored its first goal in three games on Friday (Jan. 7) but it wasn’t enough to snap its losing streak dropping a 3-1 decision to the Rock County Fury at Pierce Park Pavilion.  

The game was the first home game for the locals since Dec. 21 and the second meeting with the Fury who earned a 2-1 edge in Beloit at the beginning of December.  

Once again, the Lightning stayed with the Fury, but just couldn’t find the mesh until late in the contest.  

Senior Olivia Combs put the Fury up with the lone goal of the opening period and that stood up until the final frame when sophomore Hannah Chady sank the game winner at the 8:07 mark.  

Sophomore Lily Clark added one more for the Fury before first year Reese Olson denied Olivia Cronin, the Fury’s senior goaltender a shutout, lighting the lamp 75 seconds from the final buzzer.  

Senior Signe Begalske and junior Kayla Capener collected assists on the goal.  

The Fury held a 30-24 edge on the shot clock and snapped a seven-game winless streak dating back to Dec. 10. The win boosted the team’s overall record to 5-8-2 and the Fury sits at 3-3.  

For the Lightning who have now dropped three in a row, fell to 4-6 with the loss and they fell to 3-5 in Badger Conference play. 

Understaffed Lightning falls to Onalaska Hilltoppers

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

Sophomore goaltender Alyssa Gada turned in an awesome effort between the pipes, but it couldn’t help a short-staffed Badger Lightning team who got the post-Christmas Break portion of its varsity hockey schedule underway with a 7-0 loss on the road against the Onalaska Hilltoppers. 

The host Hilltoppers outshot the Lightning by a 50-11 margin and Gada turned in a 43-save performance in goal. 

The Hilltoppers fired the game winner 8:25 into the match and added another in the first period before piling on another three in the second and two more down the stretch.  

Senior Lydia Walz led the Hilltoppers’ attack scoring twice and setting up three others against a Lightning squad that included just a dozen skaters.  

The loss dropped the Lightning under .500 for the first time this season at 4-5 and they sit at 3-4 in Badger Conference play. The team will stay on the road with a game Thursday against the Medford Raiders (0-5, Independent). 

Next home game for the locals will be on Friday with a rematch against the Rock County Fury at Pierce Park Pavilion at 7 p.m.  

The Fury earned a 2-1 in their first Badger Conference match in Beloit Dec. 2. 

Late goal lifts Fury past Lightning

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The result in the end was a loss, but the Badger Lightning varsity hockey team showed Thursday night it is not going to be pushed around by the rest of the Badger Conference anymore.  

After opening with a pair of home wins against Beaver Dam the prior weekend, the Lightning hit the road for the first time, Friday, making the trip to Beloit to face the Rock County Fury and absorbing its first loss of the season by a 2-1 margin.  The Fury led the game for only 89 seconds. Unfortunately for the visitors it was the final 89.

The Fury run a winning streak vs. The Lighting to 11 games but felt the Lightning squad’s breath on their neck the whole way.  

Part of the credit goes to sophomore goaltender Alyssa Gada who kicked out 32 shots to keep her team in it, but while the Lightning was outshot the 34-23, much closer than other games. Also, the Lightning who were comfortable in previous seasons with a short bench actually had one more skater than the Fury in the game.  

Lightning junior, Kayla Capener had her team on the board first with her fourth goal and ninth point of the young season late in the opening period. The Fury rallied to tie it up at nearly the exact same point in the middle period and notched the game winner 89 seconds from the final buzzer.  

Sophomore Emma Kligora and senior Sara Loerke scored the Fury goals.  

Capener’s point has her tied for sixth in state in both assists and points. Strangely, Gada doesn’t show up on the state’s top 10, but here .932 save percentage ties her for fifth-best. 

The Lightning dropped to 2-1 on the season and 1-1 in Badger Conference play while the Fury climbed to 3-1-1 with the win and 1-0 in conference play. (The Fury played again Friday night, dropping a 5-0 shutout loss to the Bay Area Ice Bears in Ashwaubenon. 

The Lightning play at home again Friday, hosting the 0-2 Wisconsin Valley Union in a 6 p.m. faceoff at Pierce Park Pavilion before facing its toughest contest so far, facing the Cap City Cougars at Waunakee Ice Pond on Monday night. 

Lightning looking for more against Fury

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning picked up its first Badger Conference win last weekend and faces a tough test as the team looks to stay undefeated with another conference test in Beloit Thursday (Dec. 2). 

One of the challenges facing the Lightning looking to climb into a higher competitive tier this season is battling the conference rivals that have had their number in previous seasons.  

The Fury and Lightning have faced off 18 times since 2011 and the Fury has a 12-5-1 edge in those games, including the last 10. Last season the Lightning and Fury did not cross paths. The most recent contest was a 7-3 win for the Fury in Janesville in Jan. 2020. Mallory Ruhland is the only current player to have a goal in that game, others scored by Kaylee Engel and Allison Knull.  

Last win for the Lightning against the Fury was a 5-3 edge in Jan. 2015, Rachel Pawlak leading the way with a hat trick and others scored by Paige Pawlak and Karlee D’Asto. 

It might be too early for the Lightning to challenge the Fury with a win, but the team will make it more difficult for the home team due to some stellar work in goal and a deeper and more aggressive group of forwards this season.  

Locals will get a chance to see the local side in action on Saturday when the Wisconsin Valley Union faces off at Pierce Park Pavilion in a 7 p.m. contest, the first meeting between these teams since 2016. 

Capener’s five points paces Lightning attack

Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team followed up its opening 10-1 win against Beaver Dam Golden Beavers with a carbon copy Saturday afternoon to open the season with back-to-back wins. 

The attack started a little slower in the second game. Up 5-0 after a period earlier, the Lightning carried a 2-0 cushion into the middle period in the late game but blew the game open with a 5-1 margin through the middle 17-minutes.  

Junior Kayla Capener led the charge scoring twice and setting up three others to wrap up a five-point game and an eight-point day. 

Other Lightning goals came from Katelyn Allen, Audrey Hanko, Carson Blosenski, Signe Begalske and Lani Selje. Begalske added a couple assists with singles for Benson and Selje. 

Lily McPherson also picked up two assists with others added by Reese Olson and Madchen Ewig. 

Kaitlin Elder handled the work in goal for the Lightning, matching her teammate Alyssa Gada with just one goal against on nine shots. The Lightning held a lopsided edge in shots again 43-9. 

The Lightning head into Badger Conference play Thursday, making the trip to Beloit to faceoff against the Rock County Fury. Next home game will be on Saturday when the Lightning entertains the Wisconsin Valley Union.  

Lightning looks to continue streak against Golden Beavers

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team will open its 2021-22 WIAA varsity season Saturday (Nov. 27) with a pair of games against the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers, both at Pierce Park Pavilion.  

Teams will open play at 10 a.m. and return to the ice for a 2 p.m. start Saturday afternoon.  

The games will be the first of the season for both teams. For the Lightning it kicks off a busy opening week as they hit the road for the first time Thursday (Dec. 2), playing the Rock County Fury in Beloit, then entertains Wisconsin Valley Union on Saturday (Dec. 4). 

The Lightning has dominated the Golden Beavers in recent years, defeating them 10 straight times. In 2020-21, the teams squared off three times, the Lightning cashing in 9-1 and 9-0 wins at Pierce Park Pavilion and 8-1 at Beaver Dam Family Ice Center.  

Junior Kayla Capener came up big with hat tricks in two of the three matches and seven goals overall. Senior defender Carson Blosenski hit the net in all three games, racking up four overall and Signe Begalske chipped in a pair.  

The games will play a part in a busy opening day at Pierce Park Pavilion as the varsity boys hockey team will also play Saturday night against the Middleton Cardinals (see preview story).