Thunder hockey team wraps up unbeaten season
The year didn't start off well for the Mon Valley Thunder Pee Wee hockey team.
The collection of 11- and 12-year olds were roughed up during a pair of preseason placement games.
"With nine new players and two losses like that, our outlook was not very optimistic," coach Jon Bilski said.
Little did the first-year coach realize that know that four months later he would be on the bench watching 16 kids celebrate like they won the Stanley Cup after an improbable shootout victory to win the Pennsylvania Amateur Hockey League Division playoffs Sunday.
The Thunder finished with a 21-0-1 record and a pair of banners — an A Minor Gold Division season and playoff banner.
"We had a great year," Bilski said. "We had a bunch of new skaters and the new skaters played really well for us, but that final game was amazing."
The Thunder, whose roster has kids from Elizabeth, Jefferson, Pleasant Hills and Belle Vernon and plays their home games at Rostraver Ice Garden, rolled through the regular season. They went 17-0-1 playing teams as far away as State College.
In the playoffs, Mon Valley rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat fourth-seeded Lawrence in the semifinals and advance to the title game against South Hills.
Tied, 2-2, after regulation, the teams didn't score in two overtime periods, leaving it up to a shootout.
After the Thunder's Nikita Sidun scored to lead off the shootout, nobody else could find the back of the net.
"We had a couple of big guns in there that got shut down," Bilski said.
And when Ty Barkley stopped the fifth and final South Hills shootout attempt, Mon Valley completed its unbeaten season.
"It was crazy," Bilski said. "The gloves and sticks were everywhere. That's huge for the kids."
The Thunder will play together one final time this weekend in a tournament in Rochester, N.Y.
"It becomes somewhat of an addicting sport," Bilski said. "It is such a great sport once you get into it. A lot of us parents fall in love with it, too. It becomes your lifestyle for four or five months."
Team members are: Joshua Kane, Ethan Weisser, Nicholas Boulanger, Samuel Gonzales, Matt Hickey, Jacon Weiss, Casey Bilski, Shaelyn Mooney, Nikita Sidun, Matthew Bertok, Seth Ruby, Alexei Becinski, Tyrik Barkley, Ean Brodine, William Eson, Daniel Swart and Brendan Wargo.
"It was a great accomplishment by a bunch of kids who love to play hockey," Bilski said.