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No respect for hockey co-op

Eagles get No. 4 seed in playoffs


February 7, 2019

With the postseason rapidly approaching, the Sauk Prairie co-op boys’ hockey team was looking forward to earning some respect from the state hockey community.

The Eagles’ program, which consists of players from Sauk Prairie, Mount Horeb and Wisconsin Heights high schools, has fashioned a winning record overall and in Badger North Conference play despite lacking a goaltender with any high school experience – varsity or JV.

The 21-man roster also has zero seniors, making it one of the youngest teams around.

But Eagles’ coach David Lohrei left Sunday’s seeding meeting for WIAA sectional play disappointed by what he perceived as a lack of respect by his peers.

“We should have gotten the third seed,” Lohrei said following the Eagles’ 4-1 loss in a Badger North Conference game at home on Monday night. “Once again it was about the boys’ club.”

Sauk Prairie received a No. 4 seed and will host the fifth-seeded Aquinas co-op (13-9) in a regional final of the WIAA playoffs at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center Ice Arena on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.

The winner will advance to the Onalaska Sectional semifinals to play the survivor of a regional final matchup between the top-seeded Onalaska co-op (20-2) vs. the regional semifinal winner of the ninth-seeded DeForest co-op (3-15) at the eighth-seeded Black River Falls co-op (6-16).

In the other half of the Onalaska Sectional, seventh-seeded Baraboo/Portage (5-16) will host the 10th-seeded Viroqua co-op (1-18) in a regional semifinal with the winner playing at the second-seeded Reedsburg co-op (15-4-2) in a regional final. Third-seeded Tomah/Sparta (16-3-2) will host sixth-seeded West Salem/Bangor (9-12) in the other regional final.

What irked Lohrei the most was that Tomah/Sparta received the No. 3 seed over his team despite the fact the Eagles won their head-to-head meeting. The Sauk Prairie co-op prevailed 5-1 and outshot Tomah/Sparta, 41-21, at the Tomah Tournament on its home ice on Nov. 23.

That brought back memories of the 2016-17 WIAA sectional seeding meeting when despite having a better record than Tomah/Sparta, the Eagles were seeded ninth and had to play at eighth-seeded Tomah/Sparta. Lohrei was told at the time that because Tomah/Sparta won its head-to-head competition with the Eagles, nothing else mattered.

“Two years ago, even though we had a better record than (Tomah/Sparta) all roads led back to the game in November when they beat us in overtime,” Lohrei said. “Well (Sunday), the rules changed.”

During the 2016-17 season, the Eagles’ record against common sectional opponents was 5-4-1, while Tomah/Sparta’s was 4-7, Lohrei recalled.

“How do you get the ninth seed when the other team has won one game in two months?” Lohrei argued at the time. “Their record was 1-14. Our record was 10-5-1. But they counted our overtime loss in their barn in our first game of the year against us.”

Fast-forward to this season and Sauk Prairie posted a 5-1-1 record against teams in its sectional, including the 5-1 victory over Tomah/Sparta, which is 8-2-1 against sectional opponents.

“You’ve got some coaches who want to play that game,” Lohrei said. “But it questions the credibility of the whole system. I suggested to our athletic director that we can’t leave that in the hands of the boys’ club. That has to go to a computer or some kind of objective process to decide what the seedings are.

“Because right now it’s who you know and who your buddies are. That’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Lohrei said if all roads led back to the head-to-head game two years ago, it should have this year, too.

“It’s disappointing, but we’ll move on,” he said. “We will have a tough first-round opponent.”

The Sauk Prairie co-op rallied to defeat the Aquinas co-op, 5-4, in a non-conference game in La Crosse on Jan. 19. The Eagles soared out to a 3-0 lead before the Aquinas co-op pulled ahead, 4-3, early in the final period.

But Sauk Prairie co-op junior forwards Lance Bauernhuber and Dylan Andrews each scored a goal in a 3-minute span to secure the thrilling victory.

“They’ve got some guys who can really fly,” Lohrei said of the Aquinas co-op which includes Holmen. “We would have had our hands full with West Salem, too. That wasn’t the point. The point was the (seeding) needed to be consistent. But as I found out (Sunday), there is no consistency. There is no precedent.”

Following is a look at the past week’s roundup:

Sauk Prairie co-op 14, Viroqua co-op 1 — Junior forward Riley Jelinek scored six goals and had two assists as the Eagles (13-6-1) routed the visiting Blackhawks (1-18-0) in a non-conference game at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center Ice Arena last Saturday.

“It’s a bad situation for Viroqua right now,” Lohrei said. “They’re very young, and they don’t have a lot of talent, and their goaltender wasn’t very good.”

Sauk Prairie co-op sophomore Caeben Schomber recorded a hat trick, scoring his first three varsity goals in just over 24 minutes spanning the second and third periods.

“That was very exciting,” Lohrei said. “We got a lot of contributions from throughout the team, and Riley (Jelinek) toyed with them.”

Sophomore Kaden Hansen scored Viroqua’s lone goal early in the first period to briefly give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.

But the Eagles scored 14 unanswered goals, including five in the first period for a 5-1 lead. Junior center Cam Desroches finished with one goal and four assists, while freshman forward Nick Mast added a goal and three assists.

Junior Lance Bauernhuber, freshman Brandon Mittelstaedt and junior Augie Begalske also chipped in with goals for the Eagles. Junior goaltender Levi Carr finished with 12 saves.

• Waunakee 4, Sauk Prairie co-op 1 — Cam Desroches scored the Eagles’ lone goal despite the Sauk Prairie co-op outshooting the Warriors, 36-18, in a Badger North Conference game on Monday night at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center Ice Arena.

Junior forward Mason Ihrke scored a pair of goals in a span of 4 minutes in the opening period to stake Waunakee (15-7-0, 6-2 Badger North) to a quick 2-0 lead.

“It was about (Waunakee’s) goaltending, and our defense was bad tonight,” Lohrei said.

The Sauk Prairie co-op (13-7-1, 4-4-0) outshot the Warriors, 19-5, in the second period, but could only muster one goal when Desroches scored on a breakaway off an assist by Riley Jelinek to trim the Eagles’ deficit to 2-1 just 58 seconds into the period.

That was all the offense the Sauk Prairie co-op could muster. Waunakee tacked on a pair of goals in the final period to ice the victory.

“Their goalie was making a lot of good saves, and we couldn’t seem to get any rebounds,” Nick Mast said.

Waunakee junior goaltender Hunter Belk finished with 35 saves. Junior Levi Carr stopped 14 shots for the Eagles.

“We outshot them and won the second period, but we couldn’t get the puck in the net,” junior defenseman Willy Hanson added. “Their goalie played phenomenally.”

• On deck: Following a non-conference game at Middleton Tuesday, the Sauk Prairie co-op will travel to Baraboo for a Badger North Conference game on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Eagles will then host Stevens Point Pacelli in a non-conference game at the Sauk Prairie Area Recreation Center Ice Arena on Saturday at 2 p.m. to close out the regular season.

Feb. 2

Sauk Prairie 14, Viroqua 1

Viroqua ........................ 1 0 0 — 1

Sauk Prairie ................ 5 4 5 — 14

First period: V — Kaden Hansen, 5:27; SP — Cam Desroches (Riley Jelinek), 6:32; SP — Jelinek (Desroches), 10:33; SP — Lance Bauernhuber, 11:51; SP — Jelinek (Desroches, Nick Mast), 15:05; SP — Jelinek (Mast, Willy Hanson), 16:39.

Second period: SP — Jelinek (Hakan Peterson), 2:42; SP — Jelinek (Mast), 3:32; SP — Caeben Schomber (Brodie Trollop), 4:08; SP — Jelinek (Desroches, Jay Liedtke), 13:34.

Third period: SP — Mast (Jelinek, Desroches), 5:16 (pp); SP — Schomber (Augie Begalske), 11:02; SP — Schomber (Hanson), 11:31; SP — Brandon Mittelstaedt (Sam Severson, Gavin Childs), 13:07; SP — Begalske (Hanson, Trollop), 16:33.

Saves: V (JJ Hertel) 39; SP (Levi Carr) 12.

Penalties-minutes: V 3-6; SP 1-2.

Feb. 4

Waunakee 4, Sauk Prairie 1

Waunakee .................... 2 0 2 — 4

Sauk Prairie ................. 0 1 0 — 1

First period: W — Mason Ihrke (Mac Reed), 2;04; Ihrke, 6:17.

Second period: SP — Cam Desroches (Riley Jelinek), 0:58 (sh).

Third period: W — Keegan Ripley, 1:46; Ripley (Ihrke, Danny Reis), 11:12.

Saves: W (Hunter Belk) 35; SP (Levi Carr 14, Sam Severson 0) 14.

Penalties-minutes: W 6-12; SP 3-6.


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