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History

History of Elite Player Development

 

Thunder Hockey has always believed its mission was to support local student-athletes who showed the desire to improve and to provide those players with the training necessary to achieve that improvement. Approximately 90% of Thunder players are from the Southern Affiliate and an additional 5% are from within the Southeast District. Recruiting local players and developing them within the program has been a higher priority for Thunder Hockey than recruiting top end players from outside the Southeast.

 

Consistent with its mission, Thunder Hockey measures its success in the number of players that advance to play at a higher level – specifically those that advance to the USA Hockey National Select Camps. Since its inception in the 2004-2005 season, Thunder Hockey has made participation in the USA Hockey Player Development program mandatory for all Thunder players with US citizenship. As a result, Thunder Hockey has sent players to National Select Camps every year and in every age classification except for the 2008 Select 16 Camp.

 

Thunder players that have attended USA Hockey National Select Camps

 

 

Select 14 Camp

Select 15 Camp

Select 16 Camp

Select 17 Camp

2005

1991’s

Zachary Sandanato

Drew Slaton

Bjorn Krupp

 

1990’s

Vinny Saponari

Trey Wimberly

Hunter Brown

Erick Ware

Thunder did not field a 16U team in 2005

Thunder did not field

a 18U team in 2005

2006

1992’s

Alex Larson

Alex Dubrinsky

Kyle Livingston

1991’s

Zachary Sandanato

Bjorn Krupp

1990’s

Vinny Saponari

Trey Wimberly

Thunder did not field

a 18U team in 2006

2007

1993’s

Corey Hucker

Brad Prevel

Ben Roush

Dylan Shamburger

Greg Sauers

1992’s

Kyle Livingston

1991’s

Bjorn Krupp

1990’s

Vinny Saponari

Brice Geoffrion

Hunter Brown

Erick Ware

2008

1994’s

Sebastian Lemm

Nicholas Covino

1993’s

Jay Williams

Ben Roush

Dylan Shamburger

Perry Holcombe

1992’s

None

1991’s

Joel Kern

Zachary Sandanato

Bjorn Krupp

Wes Elrod

























 



Two Thunder players have played with the US NTDP – Vinny Saponari (1990) and Bjorn Krupp (1991).  Both were on Thunder Teams in the inaugural season and both attended the Tier I National Championship Tournament with their respective Thunder teams. 

 

Additionally, Vinny Sapornari played on the National 18U Team at the World Under 18 Championships in 2007 and 2008. Christian Elsborg (1993) has been named to the Danish National team in the European Cup that is set to take place at the end of March in Italy.

 

Vinny Saponari is also the first Thunder alumni to play NCAA Division I college hockey, playing this year for Boston University. Additionally, Brice Geoffrion (1990) has made a verbal commitment to play NCAA Division I college hockey for the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

 

On June 21, 2008 Vinny Saponari became the first Thunder alumni drafted by the NHL when the Atlanta Thrashers selected him in the fourth round of the NHL entry draft.

 

For the past three years, USHL Scouting has listed Thunder players on the annual USHL draft list. The table to below lists those players.

Thunder players on USHL Draft List

2007

2008

2009

1992’s

Alex Larson

 

1991’s

Bjorn Krupp

Zach Sandanato

Zach Benardi

Daniel Broussard

1993’s

Jordan Cosby

Corey Hucker

Perry Holcombe

Brad Prevel

Ben Roush

Greg Sauers

Dylan Shamburger

Hunter Moix

 

1992’s

Teemu Tiitinen

Jan Kaminsky

Mike Lant

Alex Larson

Daniel Benardi

 

1991’s

Joel Kern

Ben Vincent

Zach Sandanato

Zach Benardi

Daniel Broussard

 

1994’s

List not yet released

 

1993’s

Jordan Cosby

Corey Hucker

Dylan Shamburger

Perry Holcombe

Jay Williams

Ben Roush

Greg Sauers

 

1992’s

Teemu Tiitinen

Jan Kaminsky

Mike Lant

Alex Larson

Chase Stokes

 

In the past two years, five Thunder players have been selected in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) entry draft. Jan Kaminsky and Daniel Bernardi were drafted in 2008. Bjorn Krupp, Daniel Broussard, and Zach Bernardi were drafted in 2007. Currently Bjorn Krupp and Daniel Broussard are playing in the OHL.

 

Several players from our graduated birth years (1990 & 1991) have moved on to top Midget Major, NAHL, and Prep School programs.  Non-US Players have attracted the attention of their home country’s national programs including Finland, Denmark, and Canada.  Thunder Hockey facilitated the necessary contacts to make sure that these players do not lose opportunities to represent their home countries while living in the USA. 

 

Perhaps there is no better case study for Thunder’s commitment to develop players from within than Joel Kern (1991). Joel came to Thunder Hockey in the fall of 2005. During the 2004-2005 season, Joel had played for a 14U Tier II team from his home state of Louisiana.  Though he had attended the Select 13 Southeast District Camp in 2004, he did not make it past Affiliate Player Development Select 14 tryouts in 2005.  Clearly Joel had the desire to improve, but needed instruction, training, development, and competition. In 2006, after playing for the Thunder 14U team, Joel advanced from the affiliate level tryouts to the Southeast District Select 15 tryouts, but did not advance past the first cut at District tryouts.  In 2007, after playing for the Thunder 16U team, Joel advanced past the first cut to the final day of Southeast District Select 16 tryouts, but did not advance to the National Select 16 camp. In 2008, after serving as Captain for the Thunder 16U team, he was selected to attend the National Select 17 Camp.  Joel Kern is now playing for the S-2 Tier I 18U team and visiting schools like Yale and Air Force. 


 

History of Success in Elite Competition

 

There is an old saying, “Competition is the whetstone of talent”. This is a key tenet of Thunder Hockey. The TPH Spring tournament program was originally organized to allow the better players from different cities across the South the opportunity to play together and to play against top quality competition. Since the inaugural season in 2004-2005, Thunder Hockey has consistently put teams of predominantly Southern developed players in competition at top-flight tournaments and against elite competition.

 

Each season Thunder Hockey schedules as many top 20 teams as possible. After four years of competition, Thunder teams have developed a reputation of never quitting, never giving up, and “giving 100%”. Because of that positive reputation and through nurturing personal relationships, the number of top 20 teams on the schedule increases each season.  Showcases and Tournaments are carefully selected to insure Thunder players compete against elite competition. In the first years of the program, Thunder players would only see top 20 teams in showcases and tournaments. As the program has matured, those teams have increasingly agreed to schedule exhibition games and festival style weekends with Thunder Hockey.   

 

Thunder Hockey believes that student-athletes best grow and develop by consistently exposing them to this elite level of play and keeping a coaching focus on performance. As they perform – that is as they do the things they are being taught - they will eventually be rewarded consistently with results. When Thunder Hockey first began, scores against top competition were often the same as a couple of touchdowns against.  Nonetheless, Thunder teams return to elite competition year after year. Today, the scores are more consistently close. Results come from staying committed to the program’s core player development philosophy - staying focused on performance NOT the scoreboard.

 

Some of the showcases and tournaments that Thunder Hockey attends:


Nike Bauer Invitational Tournament - Chicago

2007 – 16U team (upper division), 14U team, 13U team, 12U team,  11U team

2008 – 16U team (upper division), 14U team, 13U team, 12U team,  11U team

 

USHL Opening Weekend/Midget Minor Showcase – Sioux City

 2008 – 16U team (organized by the Dallas Jr Stars)

 

NAHL Showcase

2009 (Ann Arbor) – 16U team, 14U team

2008 (St Louis) – 16U team

 

Compuware/Honeybaked Tournament - Detroit

2008 – 14U, 13U, 12U, 11U

2007 – 14U, 13U, 12U, 11U

2006 – 14U, 13U, 12U, 11U

 

Little Ceasars/USHL Showcase  - Detroit

2008 – 16U

2007 – 16U

 

Green and Gold Invitational – London, Ontario

2008 – 16U team, 15U team, 14U team, 13U team

2007 – 16U team

2006 – 16U team

 

Border City Cup – Windsor, Ontario

2007 – 14U

 

Silver Sticks – Whitby, Ontario

2008 – 15U team

 

Peewee Quebec

2008 – 12U team (supported by the Nashville Predators)

 


OHL Cup

Each year Thunder Hockey is invited to participate in the OHL Cup.  This has served to be a great showcase event for Thunder players as most Division I programs are present as is the USHL.  NHL teams also have a strong presence, along with some of the top caliber family advisors in the industry.  Recognition from OHL teams in the past has helped spark interest for those players with DI programs, which is the path most players in Thunder Hockey are looking to pursue. 



History of Thunder Hockey's Participation in USA Hockey National Championships 
 

2004-2005

Thunder Hockey was thrilled when as a first year program, their age group, the 1990 14U team represented the Southeast District at the USA Hockey Tier I National Championships in 2005.  This team, coached by two former NHL players, Jayson Moore and Danny Geoffrion, was one of the first Southeast District teams to advance to the quarter finals at the Tier I level. 

 

2005-2006

That immediate success of the inaugural season was followed in 2006 by the 14U (1991) team advancing to the Southeast District finals, where - despite playing hard - lost to the Florida Junior Panthers.

 

2006-2007

The following season would be a different story.  In 2007, following an overtime goal against Team Maryland in the Southeast District Finals, the 16U team coached by former NHL player Uwe Krupp, became the second Thunder team in three seasons to attend the USA Hockey Tier I National Championships.  At the tournament, Thunder goaltender Austin Keiser (1991) represented the Southeast District in the skills competition and won the event. 


2007-2008

Austin In 2008, the 14U (1993) team was undefeated going into the finals of the Southeast District tournament, where they lost to the Florida Everblades.


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