After a tough start to the week, the Baraboo/Portage boys hockey team picked up the energy on Saturday night.
That effort wasn’t quite enough, as the Thunderbirds closed out the regular season with a 3-2 overtime loss to Badger North Conference rival Sauk Prairie co-op at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center.
The T-Birds (8-16, 4-6 Badger North) needed to see it come together on Saturday after struggling in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss at Beaver Dam and Thursday’s 5-3 loss at Tomah.
“They were disappointed that we didn’t win the game, but it was positive that we played better after playing so poorly,” Baraboo/Portage head coach Andy Waldvogel said of his team’s attitude after Saturday’s loss. “To finish the regular season with a game where our competitive level was where it needed to be was a good thing for us.”
“We got back to playing competitive hockey and attacking the puck, not waiting until the last seven minutes of the game.”
Baraboo/Portage only briefly played from behind on Saturday, as Sauk Prairie (15-4-1, 5-4-1) opened the scoring when Travis Austin scored 12 minutes, 30 seconds into the first period. The T-Birds answered 30 seconds later, as Cameron Logan and George Fitzwilliams assisted Campbell Koseor for a goal to tie the score at 1-1.
After a scoreless second period, the T-Birds took their first lead of the night when Gabe D’Asto assisted Brenton Gundersen for a goal 1:42 into the third period. That lead held up until Willy Hanson scored at the 10:24 mark to pull Sauk Prairie even at 2-2.
The Eagles had the bulk of the scoring chances down the stretch of regulation. the T-Birds were forced to play a man down for the final four-plus minutes of the third period.
Goaltender Dane Hinz and the T-Birds held on, taking the game to overtime and killing off the power play early in the overtime period.
“They overcame that. We had guys that executed our penalty kill well and we were able to avoid a loss in regulation,” Waldvogel said.
Sauk Prairie eventually made a play, however, as Lance Bauernhuber assisted Dayne Leonard for the game-winning goal 5:40 into overtime.
Dakota Pickhard collected 19 saves for the Eagles, while Hinz made 51 saves for the T-Birds.
“He was really busy,” Waldvogel said of Hinz. “He kept us in the game.”
Sauk Prairie finished the regular season third in the Badger North, while Baraboo/Portage and Beaver Dam tied for fourth.
The Eagles evened the season series, as Baraboo/Portage had earned a 3-1 home win over Sauk Prairie on Jan. 9.
“The effort was there, we just didn’t carry that through with a win,” Waldvogel said. “It was frustrating, but at the same time I think it’s going to refocus us.
“If we’re going to make a push in the playoffs, we have to start quickly.”
The T-Birds are seeded sixth in the WIAA playoffs and will host Sparta (6-11-1) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Baraboo/Portage opened the 2016-17 postseason with a 10-0 win over Sparta. Tuesday’s winner will advance to take on Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells/Mauston (18-5-1), the Badger North champions, in Thursday’s regional finals.
“I think the guys are excited to host a playoff game,” Waldvogel said. “We’ve got to take it one at a time obviously, especially with how our season has ended. ... It should be a good one on Tuesday night.”
Sauk Prairie is seeded seventh and will host 10th-seeded Viroqua co-op at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
The Badger Lightning capped off the regular season with a 6-0 Badger Conference loss at Viroqua on Saturday.
The winless Lightning (0-18, 0-10 Badger Conference) gave up two goals in each period as the Blackhawks (10-12, 5-5) swept the season series. Viroqua also recorded a 7-1 win over the Lightning on Feb. 1.
The Lightning kept the Blackhawks off the scoreboard for more than 10 minutes before Maia Barendreft scored a power-play goal at the 10:42 mark of the first period. Emma Kolden added a goal less than a minute later and Viroqua was off and running.
Naomi Schroeder and Perla Grenier each scored in the second period, while Kolden scored a pair of goals in the third period to record a hat trick.
Natalie Buss made 22 saves for the Lightning, while Ivy Shonka tallied 28 saves for the Blackhawks.
The Lightning are seeded eighth in the WIAA tournament and will open regional play against the top-seeded Rock County Fury (19-3-2) on Friday in Janesville. The Fury swept the Lightning during the regular season, recording a 9-0 road win on Nov. 30 and an 8-0 home win on Jan. 8. The winner will advance to take on the fourth-seeded Onalaska co-op (11-12-1) or fifth-seeded Middleton Metro Lynx (7-15-1) on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
SAUK PRAIRIE CO-OP 3, BARABOO/PORTAGE 2 (OT)
Baraboo/Portage 1 0 1 0 — 2
Sauk Prairie 1 0 1 1 — 3
First period: SP — Austin (Jelinek, Bauernhuber), 12:30. BP — Koseor (Logan, Fitzwilliams), 13:00.
Third period: BP — Gundersen (D’Asto), 1:42. SP — Hanson (Desroches, Jelinek), 10:24.
Overtime: SP — Leonard (Bauernhuber), 5:40.
Saves: BP (Hinz) 51, SP (Pickhard) 19.