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. 

Pfaff sets up three for Cheavers in Tomah

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

By Jim den Hollander  

Coming off a big conference win on home ice, the RWD Cheavers wrapped up the pre-Christmas portion of its schedule with a non-conference shutout win on the road against Tomah Sparta on Dec. 21.  

Senior Cooper Oakes kicked out all 22 Tomah/Sparta shots on goal for his second shutout of the season and broke his own team record with his 11th varsity goose egg. 

Offensively, the Cheavers got the only goal it needed when junior Yevgeny Dedun buried an unassisted marker 6:30 into the contest, the lone goal of the opening period.  

Senior Trevor Slaght, playing his first game of the season after off season injury made his presence felt quickly, notching an insurance goal in the middle period on a feed from senior C.J. Pfaff. 

The Brandt twins, juniors Caden and Carsen put the game away with their third-period markers, Caden early and Carsen with 25 ticks on the clock. Both goals came with help from seniors Pfaff and Grant Marsich. 

The Cheavers held a 33-22 edge in shots overall and boosted its regular season record to 6-5 heading into the Christmas break. 

Solid play but lapses hurt varsity Cheavers

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The RWD varsity Cheavers slipped back under .500 with a couple rough days at the office.  

On Saturday (Dec. 11), the Cheavers played host to Baldwin-Woodville Hawks for a non-conference tilt and saw a 3-2 edge after two periods slip away thanks to three unanswered Hawks goals in the final 17 minutes and a 5-3 loss.  

On Tuesday at Oregon, the Cheavers went up against one of the state’s top scoring teams, the Oregon Panthers and limited the team to 26 shots, but that was enough for a 5-1 win for the home team.  

Baldwin Woodville Hawks 5 @ RWD Cheavers 3 

The home team couldn’t have started this game much better, outshooting a Hawks team coming off a tough loss the night before at Black River Falls to start the weekend road trip, by a 19-4 margin. 

But on the scoreboard teams were even at 1-1, the lone goal coming from junior defenseman Carsen Brandt, just back in the lineup after a season opening injury. Brandt’s rising shot from the blue line hit the back of the net unseen by the Baldwin keeper, cancelling out the Hawks’ opener, scored a couple minutes prior. 

Another defender stepped up 33 seconds into the middle period as senior Grant Marsich put the Cheavers in front with help from junior Caden Brandt and senor Tomas Komdofer. 

The Hawks tied it just past the nine-minute mark, but Komdofer put the Cheavers in front again 63 seconds from the middle period buzzer from Marsich. 

The Cheavers held a 31-14 edge in shots through the first 34 minutes, but the visitors flipped the script in the final frame, tying the game 6:17 in and taking the lead with 6:17 to play on a powerplay. Another powerplay goal, third of the game for the Hawks all but settled the game with 1:54 to play. 

RWD Cheavers 1 @ Oregon Panthers 5  

The assignment awaiting anyone taking on the Panthers is shutting down the explosive trio of Joe Roemer, Kyle Rohrer and Andrew Jicha. For the most part, the Cheavers did that for 44 of 51 minutes Tuesday night, but three goals in seven minutes to open the middle period showed just how explosive that trio can be. 

The Cheavers took the game to the host Panthers through the opening period, holding the high-flying team to one goal scored 2:03 into the contest.  

The Cheavers held a 10-8 edge on the shot clock, but the Panthers scored twice in the opening two minutes of the second and added another before the seven-minute mark to widen the gap.  

Senior CJ Pfaff finally got the Cheavers on the board with 7:05 to play in the game, from juniors Yevgeny Dedun and Logan DeMars, but any thoughts of a late comeback with squashed less than a minute later as Oregon fired its fifth.  

Once again the Cheavers held the overall edge on the shot clock but just by a 27-26 margin. 

Rohrer-Roemer and Jicha played a part in all five Panther goals and combined for 10 points although only one of the markers involved all three. 

The back-to-back losses dropped the Cheavers under .500 at 4-5 for the first time since Dec. 3 when they sat at 2-3. It also evened the team’s Badger West Conference record at 2-2, making Friday’s home game against the Sauk Prairie Eagles (3-1, 1-1 Badger West) crucial to the team’s conference championship hopes alive. 

That game will wrap up the first half of the Conference schedule for the Cheavers who will have one more game before the Christmas break, traveling to Tomah to faceoff against Tomah/Sparta on Tuesday (Dec. 21). 

Griebe stops 26 to lead JV Cheavers past T/S

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

After surrendering the first goal, the RWD junior varsity Cheavers rallied back for a 3-1 win against Tomah/Sparta at the Reedsburg Area Community Arena (RACA) on Tuesday (Dec. 7,2021) night. 

The visitors hit the board just 3:07 into the contest on a powerplay opportunity, but that was the only shot to elude freshman Alex Griebe in the RWD net. He went on to a 26-save win, including all 17 shots in the second and third periods. 

Yevgeny Dedun knotted the game at 1-1 with his solo effort 3:12 after the T/S tally and the game winner came from Caleb Eastman late in the period, from Kaden Uminski and Mark Othmer.  

That lead held up until the third period when Uminski added some insurance with his goal, helped by Alec Breunig. The win boosted the season record for the JV Cheavers to 5-2 and the, along with the varsity squad will next be in action at State Line Ice and Community Expo (SLICE) on Thursday night.  

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.

Dedun notches game winner for JV Cheavers

By Jim den Hollander

Editor/Publisher

Saukhockey.info

A goal in the first  period and two more in the third was enough for the junior varsity RWD Cheavers hockey team to wrap up a sweep on its northern swing on Saturday (Jan. 9) at United Civic Center Ice Arena with a 3-1 win against the Baldwin-Woodville Hawks.

Junior Carter Scully collected the lone goal of the opening period with help from Spencer Garbacz. The hosts rallied to tie it with the only shot to elude junior Gary Wiles with 6:28 to play the second period.

Yevgeny Dedun put the Cheavers in front to stay with an assist for Mark Othmer 99 seconds into the final period and Caleb Eastman added some insurance with his unassisted goal about seven minutes later.

Wiles collected his second win of the weekend, turning aside 18 of 19 shots while the JV Cheavers fired 35 shots the other way.

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.