Thunder title hopes muffled
Banner season ends in loss to SHAW
Sunday, March 17, 2013 7:00 PM
MADISON - Expecting a roughhouse hit-and-be-hit hockey game, the M&M Thunder instead got outplayed and outskated with a state championship on the line.
Denin Bieberitz of the M&M Thunder (second from right) is congratulated by teammates after his first-period goal in the state championship game Sunday in Madison. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Milwaukee SHAW beat the Thunder 5-1 in the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association Division 1 state title game Sunday at Madison Ice Arena.
SHAW controlled the puck from the start and took the Thunder out of its game. The Timberwolves have a notorious reputation as a physical, often penalized, and many would say, dirty team. But they beat the Thunder with superior skill.
"We were expecting to get hit more," Thunder senior Riley Hegg said. "It was more of a hockey game this time. They came out flying, and we weren't ready for it."
It was an uncharacteristically lackluster performance by a 30-3-2 M&M team which played good hockey all winter. The signs were there during Saturday's 5-0 morning win over Onalaska, and even in Saturday evening's 7-1 victory over Milwaukee Pettit.
"We were not ourselves at all," Thunder coach Frank Best said. "Even though for stretches of the second game we played pretty well, it was a tough weekend. We're a real young team, and (for) a lot of kids, this is their first time with this kind of pressure."
Despite SHAW controlling the puck early, the Thunder scored first. Denin Bieberitz took a centering pass from Hegg, wheeled around and flicked it in at the 9:37 mark of the first period.
Just 1:34 later, with the teams skating 4 on 4, SHAW's Tyler Persch scored the equalizer.
"The idea was to come out, skate hard, pressure their defense and maintain some offense in their zone," SHAW coach Neal Fuchs said.
SHAW took the lead with 5:11 in the first period. M&M goalie Zak Giese stopped a breakaway but Mitchel Klopp cleaned up the rebound.
A bad giveaway a few feet from the net gave SHAW playmaker Zach Mattson a gift goal for a 3-1 lead with 3:31 in the first period. Mattson also earned three assists.
SHAW skated with eight seniors while the Thunder had just two - Hegg and Alex McQueeney.
"A little more physical," Fuchs said of his team. "We might have had a little more speed, too."
In the second period, SHAW capitalized on a 5 on 3 power play to take a 4-1 lead on Thomas Duffy's slapshot over Giese's left shoulder with 5:35 left.
With a 6 on 4 advantage - a power play and Giese pulled for an extra attacker, a bad pass gave SHAW's Logan Jelinske an empty-net goal with 1:53 left.
The Thunder timing was off all day. There were the uncharacteristic giveaways, offsides, shots which caromed off a teammate's skate, and even some bad luck. Easton Arsineau was checked into a referee and knocked on his can.
"They're a tough team," Hegg said. "They're really disciplined. Every kid on their team is fast. They can handle the puck."
SHAW was penalized 16 times compared with six Thunder infractions. With four Timberwolves in the penalty box in the final minute, the Timberwolves upheld their bad-boy image.
"The third period we just survived," the SHAW coach said. "We started to show a little wear and tear."
But there was no bad blood in this edition of what has been a heated rivalry in recent years.
"SHAW's a good team," Best said. "This is the fastest team we've played all year. We just seemed to be back on our heels. Last year they tried to play super-physical and rough. This year they stuck to hockey, and they've got talent."
In Saturday's win over Onalaska, Giese made 12 saves for the shutout. Brock Jersey scored unassisted and Hegg scored on assists by Bieberitz and Cole Theisen to give the Thunder an early 2-0 lead.
In the third period, Aaron Maas scored two goals - one on Hegg's assist and the other unassisted. Gunther DeDamos scored on an assist by Colin Hass.
Saturday night, the Thunder took a 3-1 first-period lead on Pettit. Bieberitz scored unassisted and on Theisen's assist, and Maas scored unassisted.
In the second period, Hegg assisted on Bieberitz's goal. Theisen scored two goals on assists by Luke Kraus and Mark Pulver. Hegg scored unassisted.
It was a season much better than expected for a young Thunder team in what looked to be a transition year.
"If you would've told me at the beginning of the year we would've played in the state championship game, I would've been happy," Best said.