The Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells boys hockey team grabbed a big win over its Badger North Conference rivals last week, but followed with a tough loss to the defending sectional champions.

The Cheavers (9-5-1 overall, 3-1-0 Badger North) saw a back-and-forth battle on Jan. 4 when they hosted Baraboo/Portage at Poppy Waterman Arena. Both teams traded goals throughout the first two frames, before Dylan Brown recorded the eventual game-winning goal during the third period to give RWD a 4-3 conference victory.

“I figured it would be that close,” Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells coach Neil Mattson said. “It’s usually a one-or-two goal differential. My hats off to Baraboo, they really work hard. They skated hard and have some depth. Overall I thought we controlled the play of the game but it didn’t show on the scoreboard.”

The opening frame was a back-and-forth one, with both teams feeling each other out. Baraboo (6-8-0, 2-2-0) sophomore Cameron Logan took a shot early on while Reedsburg’s Derek Pawlak tried for a quick backhand in the slot on the other side. The first goal of the contest came from Baraboo Jack Macdonald four minutes into period, as the senior took the puck nearly the entire length of the ice on a counterattack. Senior Gabe D’Asto took an initial shot, and Macdonald was there for the rebound and Baraboo/Portage got the early lead.

Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells must have not liked that opening goal as the Cheavers answered with a goal of their own 20 seconds later. Thomas Pfaff and Reid Marsich set up an open Ben Horzewski, who sniped one in from the inside of the left faceoff circle to knot the score 1-1. RWD had a one-man advantage 12 seconds later on a Baraboo hooking penalty, and the T-Birds killed off the power play after clearing the puck twice, but the Cheavers went up 2-1 shortly after when Dylan Brown scored off assists from Pawlak and Austin Conroy.

Baraboo/Portage started a penalty-filled second period with an extra man, and the Thunderbirds scored at the same time they did in the first period, with Gabe Larson scoring four minutes in with assists from Logan and Evan Goethel. Baraboo/Portage went on a power play shortly after, but only mustered up one shot on goal. The pace slowed down from there, until RWD jumped on a risky Baraboo line change. The Cheavers passed one across the length of the ice to an open Horzewski, and Baraboo’s Mike Wech was called for interference which spurred a string of five penalties. Baraboo/Portage eventually had a 5-on-3 advantage and capitalized, with Wech scoring off an assists from Joe Zemanovic and Campbell Koseor to go up 3-2.

Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells had a 5-on-3 advantage of its own for 30 seconds after back-to-back interference calls, and Brown was able to snipe one in from the center of the right faceoff circle on the last second of the 5-on-3 to tie it 3-3. Horzewski and Conroy were credited with the assists.

In the third, both teams killed off early power plays but RWD controlled the possession from there and grabbed the eventual game-winning goal at the 7:15 mark. Brown was credited with the goal during a 3-on-2 push with Pawlak assisting, but Brown was helped from a Baraboo defender who accidentally dragged the puck in toward the goal after sliding to defend Pawlak’s shot.

“He slid over the puck, but we did have a stick on it,” Mattson said of the goal. “There was a lot of chaos in front of the net, I kind of felt bad for the goalie as he played such a great game and then to kind of have a fluke goal is kind of a tough one to swallow as a goalie but I’m happy it happened.”

Brown was penalized for roughing and the Thunderbirds had a 5-on-3 advantage with 7.2 seconds left, but the Cheavers won the faceoff and went on to win the BooBurg Cup. Goalie Nicolas Breunig saved 26 shots on the day while Baraboo/Portage’s Dane Hinz saved 39.

A couple days later, Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells hosted West Salem, a team that handed the Cheavers a sectional final loss last season. RWD trailed 4-1 early and was able to climb back, but the Panthers (9-5) scored two unanswered goals in the third period to take the game 7-4.

“Unfortunately our goaltending was around 68 percent, which you’re not going to win with,” Mattson said. “The official shots on the scoresheet read that we outshot them 28-19. They got a couple more goals high and shoulder side on Nick. We just kind of imploded, we already (came back) from 4-1 and the next thing you know we’re down 6-4, 7-4, and the kids just didn’t have enough gas left in them.”

West Salem opened the game with a goal at the 1:22 mark on an unassisted play, but RWD’s Ben Jones knotted the score with an unassisted goal of his own at the 7:47 mark. The Panthers took over from there, scoring two more in the first while going up 4-1 at the start of the second.

The Cheavers put themselves back into the game with three unanswered goals of their own, the first coming from Pfaff at the 11:11 mark with Horzewski and Gruber assisting. Jones followed with a goal less than two minutes later with Pawlak and Brown assisting, while Jacob Ely scored at 14:56 off a pass from Brown to tie it 4-4.

West Salem took a late lead in the second to grab the momentum and never looked back as the Panthers scored on a shorthanded play at the seven-minute mark in the third before adding another at 9:18.

“It’s too bad, because the score was not indicative by no means of how close that game was,” Mattson said. “The unfortunate part is, it was a very important seeding game for the sectional seeding coming up here pretty soon.”

Breunig saved 19 of 26 in the contest, while West Salem goalie Adam Helgeson saved 28. The loss ended a 7-0-1 streak for RWD, which will now begin a run of four straight conference games.

“It kind of starts putting pressure on us coaches and the players when you go eight straight without a loss. It’s kind of nice once in a while for a hiccup, but unfortunately that’s not the team we wanted to have a hiccup against,” Mattson said. “We have four conference games in a row, and that’s where our attention is focused right now, to try and finish off and hopefully win out in conference and win the Badger North.”

REEDSBURG/WISCONSIN DELLS 4, BARABOO/PORTAGE 3

Baraboo/Portage 1 2 0 — 3

Reedsburg/Wis. Dells 2 1 1 — 4

First period: BP — Macdonald (Gab. D’Asto), 4:00; RWD — Horzewski (Pfaff, Marsich), 4:20; Brown (Pawlak, Conroy), 8:45.

Second period: BP — Wech (Zemanovich), Koseor), 4:00 (pp); Larson (Logan, Goethel), 13:00; RWD — Brown (Horzewski, Conroy), 16:28 (pp).

Third period: RWD — Brown (Pawlak), 9:45.

Saves: BP (Hinz) 39, RWD (Breunig) 26.

WEST SALEM 7, REEDSBURG/WISCONSIN DELLS 4

West Salem 3 2 2 — 7

Reedsburg/Wis. Dells 1 3 0 — 4

First period: WS — Holt, 1:22; RWD — Jones, 7:47; WS — Weilandt (Whitbeck, LeDoux), 16:05; Holt (Whitbeck), 16:37 (pp).

Second period: WS — Gorniak (Endres), 10:51; RWD — Pfaff (Horzewski, Gruber), 11:11; Jones (Pawlak, Brown), 13:01; Ely (Brown), 14:56; WS — Gerke (Brown, Gorniak), 16:03.

Third period: WS — Gorniak, 7:00 (sh); Holt (Beirne), 9:18.

Saves: WS (Helgeson) 28, RWD (Breunig 19, Karas 6) 25.

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Regional Sports Reporter