The Baraboo/Portage boys hockey team had to adapt to some things, but the Thunderbirds were able to get things done on Tuesday when they hosted Sauk Prairie and beat the Eagles 3-1 in a Badger North Conference game.

It was an even first period of play, with both teams feeling each other for the first few minutes. With only about 15 players on the Sauk Prairie roster, the Eagles are known for using their trap defensive system to prevent opponents from going through the neutral zone.

Baraboo/Portage eventually figured out the defense and controlled the puck on Sauk Prairie’s third. A couple of close shots on goal came from the Thunderbirds several minutes in, including one from senior Jack Macdonald from the slot.

Baraboo/Portage’s first goal of the night, however, came on a power play from Campbell Koseor, who deflected in an initial shot from Gabe D’Asto from near the blue line. Koseor directed the puck between the legs of Sauk Prairie goalie Dakota Pickhard to give the T-Birds a 1-0 lead. Macdonald was also credited with an assist on the play.

“We knew going into it (Sauk Prairie) would try and generate their offense through transition and try and get some odd-man rush looks,” Baraboo/Portage coach Andy Waldvogel said. “So we kind of adapted to what they were going to do, and changed up some things we do systematically and the guys executed really well.”

Both teams picked up the pace in an action-packed but scoreless second period. Sauk Prairie (9-2-1, 3-2 Badger North) started the period on a power play after Baraboo was penalized with 40 seconds left in the first, but the Thunderbirds killed it off. Macdonald nearly put in a wraparound attempt moments later, but Baraboo was forced to play down a man once again after a tripping penalty. The closest shot during Sauk’s power play came from senior Dayne Leonard but Baraboo goalie Giovanni D’Asto made one of several crucial saves on the night.

“He played a really solid game,” Waldvogel said of D’Asto. “One of the things we talked to him about was making sure your rebound control is on point.”

Koseor and junior Mike Wech effectively attacked the net after the power play, which spurred a frenzy of shots from the Thunderbirds. Baraboo controlled loose pucks in the middle while holding strong on the corners to keep the puck on Sauk’s side which led to several close shots on goal. Leonard held strong, however, and the scoreboard still read 1-0 after the second.

“I think that first period, it was just our guys getting used to trying to play a different system, because it’s just really not what we’re used to,” Waldvogel said. “And then the second period I feel like they started to gain some comfort with what we were trying to do.”

Baraboo/Portage held onto the momentum for the first several minutes of the third frame. The T-Birds were desperate to grab an insurance goal, and junior Joe Zemanovic had the first real chance a few minutes in when he skated the puck down the length of the ice on a Sauk Prairie line change and got a solid look at a shot but Pickhard made the save. A Baraboo/Portage hooking penalty gave the Eagles a chance but the T-Birds’ defense continued to hold strong and clear pucks. With 3:30 left on the clock, Baraboo saw the puck cross the goal line on a scramble but the goal was waved off after the goal became dislodged.

The Thunderbirds finally found the insurance goal they were looking for at the 14:56 mark, when Larson found the back of the net off a pass from Cameron Logan to make it 2-0. Sauk Prairie answered 45 seconds later however, with Leonard and Camden Desroches assisting Jay Liedtke to make it 2-1. Baraboo/Portage responded right back, when Logan stole the puck and put it past Pickhard for an unassisted goal with just over a minute remaining. After a timeout, the Eagles pulled Pickhard but Baraboo’s defense stepped up once again.

Baraboo moves to 7-8 overall and 3-2 Badger North. The Thunderbirds are well within the race to the top of the conference as Baraboo, Sauk Prairie, Waunakee, Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells, and Beaver Dam all have similar marks with just a few conference games to go in the season.

“It was a really good team win for us. It kind of puts us in a situation now too looking at the conference where I feel like our guys still control their own destiny as far as where we fit in in the Badger North and I know that’s something they’re excited about,” Waldvogel said.

Baraboo was out shot by Sauk Prairie 18-15, with D’Asto saving 17 shots in the win. The T-Birds will be back on the ice on Thursday when the travel to Beaver Dam for another Badger North Conference game.

Follow Chris on Twitter @chris_CNsports

Regional Sports Reporter