M&M Thunder goalie Kyle Desotell makes a glove save during practice Monday at the Civic Center. The Thunder high school team will open its season tonight in De Pere.<br>EagleHerald/Jody Korch
M&M Thunder goalie Kyle Desotell makes a glove save during practice Monday at the Civic Center. The Thunder high school team will open its season tonight in De Pere.
EagleHerald/Jody Korch
MARINETTE - The M&M Thunder is in position to give its opponents a taste of their own medicine this winter.

The Thunder high school hockey team will enter tonight's season opener in De Pere with a rare luxury - 20 players.

"Last year we lost to teams with 18 to 20 players because we wore down," Thunder coach Frank Best said. "Definitely the strategy is going to be to try and wear teams down with our numbers."

That uncommon depth gives the M&M coaches flexibility in creating lines, and it adds spice to practices.

"There's a lot more competition for ice time," according to Best. "They're gonna have to earn their ice time."

Although young, the Thunder returns experience from last season's team which finished 8-17-3. Center Tony Verkerke is the only senior returner from last year's squad. The other senior, Chris Losinski, didn't play last season but does have Thunder high school experience.

Junior Anthony Norquist is a third-year player on the team. Sophomore Jason Radke shared time last year on the high school and Bantam teams.

Other returning high school players are sophomore goalie Kyle Desotell, junior defensemen Sami Schuchart and Bryan Bruning, sophomore defenseman Kevin Schmitz, junior forwards Danny Sullivan and Chase Allard, and sophomore Austin Maas who has moved from forward to defense.

Sophomore forwards Nathan Comar, Scott Eldredge and Brandon Pullen played in the Junior Gambler program last year.

Junior Josh Brown is in his first season of hockey.

Defensemen Kenan Pulver and David Swanson and forward Derek Reiswitz, all sophomores, have moved up from last year's Bantam team.

The team's uncommon depth extends to the goalie position. Nicholas Horn and Joey Roach, both first-year high school players, are competing with Desotell for playing time.

"We're only gonna be as good as our goaltenders," Best said.

Bill Maas returns as the team's co-head coach.

The Thunder coaches always preach a team concept and playing within the team's systems.

"I think they've got a lot of potential and promise," Best said. "I think we're gonna be one of the faster teams. We just have to learn to play together, move to open ice."

Best is looking for blue-collar goals - tip-ins and rebound shots - rather than spectacular plays.

"That's what wins games," he said. "Too many times players want to have that perfect, pretty goal. Pretty goals are nice, but you don't get many of those in a season."

The coaches are seeking aggressive forechecking to help create turnovers.

"We're trying to use our defense to create offense," according to Best.

The Fox Valley High School Hockey League was divided into three classes last season. This year, all 11 teams are in one class. The top four teams will compete in a league playoff.

"Our goal is always to get into the league playoffs at the end of the year," Best said.