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16U Thunder Storm the Southeast

By Jeff Seidel - Special to USAHockey.com, 03/26/14, 3:30PM MDT

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The Tier I 16-and-Under division of the recent Southeastern district tournament in North Carolina belonged to the Thunder — in every way possible.

On offense, this group was prolific, averaging over five goals per game, a number that will bother any opponent and help any team win a tournament. But the bigger stat probably came from defense — and that number is zero.

Why is zero so important here? Because that’s how many goals the Thunder allowed in this tournament. That’s right, opponents couldn’t score one time. And that’s why the Thunder won all four games and rolled to the tournament title.

The final numbers showed the Thunder outscoring opponents 22-0 in their four games. There were two 7-0 victories and two 4-0 wins en route to the championship. The next stop is the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier I Youth National Championships April 2-6 in Green Bay, Wis.

Coach Steve Jennings said everything went right in the district tournament, from offense to defense and special teams.

“We had everyone going all weekend, and the entire bench contributed on offense,” Jennings said of the team based in based in Alabama (Huntsville), Tennessee (Nashville) and Georgia (Atlanta). “Our goaltending was solid and special teams play was effective both ways.”

Jennings said he liked how strongly the defense played throughout the tournament, something that was important both in even-strength and penalty killing.

Simply put, the Thunder gave its opponents nothing.

“Our defense played well, limiting chances for our opponents and being physical,” Jennings said. “They were efficient in breaking us out and contributed offensively as well. In special teams play, the collective effort on shot blocking limited our opponent’s chances.”

In addition, the goalies played solid hockey throughout. Tyler Johnson won three of the four games while Joe Bable got the other victory. Those two and Hunter Hart have been consistent for the team during the season.

Jennings said the strong goalie play has been a big reason for the team’s success this year — and at the tournament.

“Our goaltending was very good all weekend,” Jennings said. “While we generally limited quality chances, Joe and Tyler did a great job of making some big saves to maintain control of the games.”

They did just that from the start. The Thunder opened with a 4-0 victory over the Little Caps from Washington. Quinn Larson led the way with two goals while Josh Wilkins and David Cohen both scored once. Karl Risley had two assists while Matt Goodman, Zach Bennett, Matt Jennings and Cole Stewart all had one. Johnson had the shutout in goal.

The second game also was a 4-0 victory, this time a win over the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes. Matt Jennings led the way with one goal and one assist while Risley, Brad Ingersoll and Sam Swanson each scored once. Zach Zalar finished with two assists while Zeke Zeier, Paul Raby, Wilkins and Larson all added one. Johnson posted his second shutout in goal.

The final two games both were 7-0 routs. The first came versus Team Maryland, and Jennings sparked the offense with two goals and one assist. Wilkins and Stewart also added a goal and an assist. Raby scored another goal. Zalar, Risley and David Cohen also contributed assists as Bable took over in net and kept the shutout streak alive.

The finale was just as impressive, a 7-0 rout of the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes for the tournament championship.

Stewart finished with two goals and one assist. Risley helped with a goal and an assist, as did Cohen. Eric Hirschhaut, Zalar and Ingersoll scored the other three goals.

Wilkins topped the team with three assists. Raby, Bennett and Jennings each got one assist. Johnson came back in net for his third shutout of the tournament.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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