Fun but stressful week of WIAA playoffs

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

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. 

Schaetzl backstops Tbirds to Badger West win

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

There’s one more game to go, but the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds clinched fifth place in the Badger West Conference with an 8-4 win at Monroe against the host Cheesemakers at Stateline Ice and Community Expo (SLICE) on Tuesday (Feb. 1). 

The win shows that a team plagued with injuries and illness through much of the season could be taking shape in time for what will be a tough post season run.  

Last time the new conference rivals met, the Thunderbirds claimed a 2-1 win at Pierce Park Pavilion Dec. 18. The win at SLICE saw the Thunderbirds coming up with its best offensive total this season.  

Cheesemakers hit the scoreboard first and carried a 3-2 lead into the middle period. It was 4-2 7:50 from the end of the middle period, but it was all T-Birds after that.  

Four goals in the final 7:03 had the Baraboo/Portage squad up 6-4 and they added two more unanswered goals in the final period to put it away. 

Senior Gabe Fitzwilliams paced the Thunderbirds’ attack with two goals and two assists, sophomore Carson Zick adding two goals and an assist and senior Oliver Scanlan contributing a goal and two assists. 

Senior Zach Huffaker also scored a pair with the other Thunderbirds’ goal fired by junior Peyton Sloan. Sophomore Bodie Thompson and junior Monte Hartmann picked up assists.  

Both teams fired 12 shots in the opening period, Thunderbirds with a 15-9 edge in the middle frame and senior goaltender Andrew Schaetzl stopped all 15 shots he faced to allow his team to pad its margin despite being outshot 15-10. Overall, Thunderbirds held a 37-36 edge in shots. 

The win boosted Thunderbirds to 4-18 and 2-7 in Badger West Conference play. Thunderbirds were scheduled to wrap up conference play Friday (Feb. 4) on home ice against the Badger West Conference leading Madison Edgewood Crusaders.  

That will leave two games next week, the final home contest against the Avalanche at 7 p.m. Tuesday and its final game on the road in Waupun two days later, followed by playoffs which will get underway the following week. 

Schweda’s 37 saves not enough for JV T-Birds against Cheavers

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

A 51-minute season opening junior varsity contest was ultimately decided in the first 28 seconds of the third period at Reedsburg Area Community Arena.  

A stellar effort in goal for Burke Schweda wasn’t enough for the visiting Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds as the host RWD Cheavers turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead with two goals in those opening 28 seconds, adding one more later to wrap up a 5-3 win. 

The game was the season opener for both teams.  

The Cheavers held a 15-5 edge in shots through the opening 17-minute session, but Schweda kicked out 14 of them, beaten just once as senior Malachi Strombolis-Salama scored his first of two in the contest with 4:23 to play in the frame, slamming home the rebound of a shot by sophomore defenseman Mark Othmer. 

The lead lasted just over a minute before senior Zach Huffaker tied it with help from junior Peyton Sloan. 

The 1-1 draw carried into the middle period and the T-Birds moved in front for the first time 2:40 into the frame with a goal from Daniel Yesipovich set up by senior Charlie Gibbs.  

This time it was RWD rallying back quick as sophomore Connor Putz buried one unassisted 87 seconds later.  

Huffaker notched another just 27 seconds after the Putz goal, from junior Landon Olson and that carried into the second period break. 

A fired-up Cheavers’ team came out of the locker room and Strombolis-Salama notched his second just 10 seconds into the frame with assists for senior Carter Scully and junior Nate Stando.  

Scully stayed on the ice and notched the game winner 18 seconds later, with help from Stando and Othmer. 

Stando collected his third point of the period, scoring a clincher near the halfway mark from freshman Caden Uminski and Strombolis-Salama. 

The Cheavers JV squad was playing its first of four games this week as they will open for the varsity squad in Wisconsin Rapids Tuesday and then play twice at a tournament in Somerset Friday and Saturday. 

Thunderbirds will play next on Saturday at Pierce Park Pavilion against the visiting Middleton Cardinals.