The Thunder entered the tournament as the fourth seed and brought home a third-place finish with a 6-3 win over Madison on Sunday.
“Considering the competition with Kenosha having 15 seniors and Dodgeville being a perennial powerhouse with a really good team this year, we were happy with third place,” Thunder coach Alex McDonald said.
“All of the volunteers for our team really came together and made this tournament a success,” he continued. “We have the raffle tables and the food, and this group of parents put in the extra work to put on a good tournament. That’s what keeps us getting the state tournament bid, and that’s why we will have it for a third year in a row next year.”
The six-team tournament featured a three-game round-robin pool play with teams earning three points for a win in regulation, two points for a win in overtime or a shootout, or one point for a loss in overtime or a shootout.
The two teams with the most points then played for the State Championship while teams three and four played for third and five and six played for fifth place.
The Thunder opened the tournament with a thrilling 5-4 win over Madison on Friday. On Saturday they fell 11-0 to top-seeded and eventual champion Kenosha before taking a convincing 9-5 win over SHAW (Milwaukee).
That gave the Thunder six points, tying for second in the pool-play standings; however, Dodgeville advanced to the title game against Kenosha with a more favorable goal differential.
M&M Thunder 5 - Madison 4
In Friday’s opener, the Thunder held a commanding 3-1 lead midway through the third period with goals from Randy Von Haden, and Broden Krause (2).
Madison got a second goal from Leo Carroll, and things got hairy when Aidan Sweeney and Caden Wisinksi scored within a minute of each other to put the Eagles ahead 4-3 with just over five minutes to play.
An undaunted Thunder team tied the game with a goal from Brayden Rounds, and with 2:17 to play, Theron Thayer put in the game winner in a short-handed situation off an assist from Krause.
The Thunder outshot Madison 35-19 while Glenn Woodworth’s 16 saves were enough to seal the victory.
“In all three wins, we closed out really well with some late period goals,” McDonald said. “What we asked of them was spot on this weekend. Even in the loss to Kenosha they played a good game. Kenosha had 15 seniors and it’s hard to get around that when we had essentially the opposite. We have 12 underclassmen, and they have 15 seniors.”
Kenosha 11 - M&M Thunder 0
Saturday morning, the top-seeded Kenosha Komets proved to be as good as advertised notching their second shutout of the tournament with an 11-0 win over the Thunder. The game marked the only time all season that the Thunder offense was shutout, while Kenosha pushed its goal differential for the tournament to 19-0.
M&M Thunder 9 - SHAW 5
Saturday evening, the Thunder faced off with a SHAW team that had prevailed 7-6 in the only regular season meeting between the two teams.
This time SHAW’s physical style backfired, resulting in a dozen penalties and two players being disqualified for too many penalties per tournament rules.
The Thunder got first period goals from Jack Starich and Thayer but trailed 3-2 heading into the second stanza.
The offense got hot in the second period. A pair of goals form Krause put the Thunder up 4-3. SHAW tied the game at 4-4, but Rounds and Krause both scored in the final minute of the period to give the Thunder a 6-4 advantage heading into the final intermission.
That momentum carried over into the third period while a flustered SHAW team committed seven more penalties.
Rounds made it a three-goal lead with a goal on an early power play. Caiden Radtke and Haley took advantage of subsequent power plays, and the Thunder pulled away by a final score of 9-5.
All three placement games on Sunday proved to be rematches of pool play action. SHAW which had defeated Hudson on Saturday, lost the fifth-place game 5-2. Kenosha and Dodgeville, the top two seeds in the tournament, met on Saturday with Kenosha sneaking in the final goal of a 5-4 win with 2:31 to play. The Komets had a little more breathing room in Sunday’s title game, winning 4-0 over the Ice Wolves.
M&M Thunder 6 - Madison 3
In the third-place game, the Thunder again jumped ahead of Madison 3-1 with a pair of early goals from Damien Winterbottom and a second-period goal from Rounds.
Madison responded in the third period with Joe Bakalars’ second and third goals of the game to knot the contest at 3-3.
Rounds had an immediate answer, scoring the go ahead goal less than a minute later. With five minutes to play, Von Haden and Krause scored in quick succession to seal a 6-3 win.
The Thunder once again outshot the Eagles 34-25 while Woodworth was superb in goal, stopping 22 of the 25 shots he faced.
For the tournament, Krause paced the offense with six goals and four assists including a hat-trick against SHAW. Rounds added four goals and two assists to the effort while Denny racked up six assists. Denny and Von Haden both posted playmakers against SHAW. Von Haden finished with two goals and four assists, while McDonald added four assists as well.
Woodworth totaled 102 saves against 126 shots (.810). Discounting the Kenosha game, he saved 84% of the shots he faced.
“They progressed, which is what you want to see as a coach” McDonald said of his team. “We had peaks and valleys this season but ended on a peak. I think their skill level improved over the course of the season. It’s a young team, and I think next year they will come in with a lot more hockey IQ.”
McDonald also praised his role players.
“I had all the faith in the world in them in those tight situations,” he said. “We didn’t have to shorten the bench, which helped us win. Those kids who don’t get on the score sheet much were huge. When we can run three lines right up to the last six minutes of the game, that is huge. For us to be able to grind down teams and have fresh legs not only at the end of the game, but the end of the tournament was a big victory for those role players who will keep progressing and take on bigger roles next year.”
The Thunder finished the season with an overall record of 18-10-4.
2023 WAHA 18U State Championship Results
Pool Play: M&M Thunder def. Madison 5-4, Kenosha def. Hudson 8-0, Dodgeville def. SHAW 8-0, Kenosha def. M&M Thunder 11-0, SHAW def. Hudson 6-3, Kenosha def. Dodgeville 5-4, Madison def. Hudson 7-3, M&M Thunder def. SHAW 9-5. Fifth-place game: Hudson def. SHAW 5-2. Third-place game: M&M Thunder def. Madison 6-3. Championship game: Kenosha def. Dodgeville 4-0.
The Thunder Peewee A team placed sixth in last week’s WAHA 12U 4A State Tournament in West Salem, Wis.
The Thunder notched a consolation round 5-3 win over Price Ice but dropped an opening round game to Monroe and the fifth-place game to Barron/Chetek.
Owen Shaffer led the offense with four goals including a hat-trick against Price Ice while Jesse McClarren, Simon King and Parker Perket scored as well. Grace Loomis made 64 saves in the three contests.
The team finished the season with a record of 14-19-1.