Raptors derail Thunder title reign
Championship game goals hard to come by
Monday, March 20, 2017 12:00 AM
MCFARLAND, Wis. — Rock County ended the M&M Thunder’s two-year state championship reign on Sunday afternoon.
The Raptors held on for a 3-2 victory over the Thunder in the title game of the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association 18-and-under Midget state tourney.
It was the fourth straight year the two teams met in the state title game; Rock County won in 2014, the Thunder won back-to-back state titles in 2015 and ‘16.
“I guess it was their time,” Thunder coach John Mans said. “They had a good team. They had good speed. We outplayed them — it just was not our day.”
Rock County took a 1-0 lead with a power play goal in the first period. The Thunder tied it when defenseman Adam Wahl skated end to end, took a shot and Wesley Knutson knocked in the rebound.
The Thunder thought it had taken the lead late in the second period but the goal was waved off.
“The puck went in. We were celebrating,” Mans said.
Mans, who said the referees were out of position for the play, was never given an explanation why the goal was disallowed.
“If that goal was not waved off, who knows?” Mans said. “It would’ve been a different game. We never really recovered from that. It just took the wind out of our sails for a team that doesn’t score a lot already. Overall we still have to score the goals. We didn’t score enough.”
The Raptors added goals in the second and third periods. Jeremiah Philipps scored on a rebound shot for the Thunder in the final minute of regulation.
Rock County, a team led by a large group of 18-year-olds, was planning a return to Beloit complete with fire trucks. The Thunder was left wondering what could’ve been a three-peat.
“We had a helluva run,” Mans said. “We just didn’t have the killer instinct to get the extra goals.”
On Saturday, the Thunder advanced to the state title game with a 4-0 win over Milwaukee SHAW. Thunder goalie John Horn made 15 saves to post the shutout. Carson Lovedale had a huge game with two goals and two assists, and Cole Jersey had a goal and an assist. Philipps scored the other goal. Knutson and Wahl each earned an assist. The Thunder scored two goals in each of the first two periods.
It was the end of a great run for seniors Horn, Lovedale, Mitchell Banaszak, Tyler Oleson and Cassidy Martin.
“I just thanked them for their effort,” Mans said. “So many of the kids looked up to the way they played on the ice.”
Martin was a new addition to the team after playing for the Thunder U-19 girls in past seasons.
“Having a girl on the team was such a blessing,” Mans said. “I think they respected her work ethic.”
Banaszak moved back and forth from defense to forward in his final high school game.
The Thunder finished the season 17-11-3.
It was also the end of a three-year run for Mans, who is stepping down as head coach. Last week, he was named Menominee Area Public Schools interim superintendent. He has served as Menominee High School principal this year, and that meant short nights between hockey practice and the school day.
“Getting to the rink was hard this year but once I got there it was a special place,” Mans said. “I’ll be going to the rink as a visitor next year.”