The Wichita Jr. Thunder hockey team won back-to-back championships in the Mid America High School Hockey League this past weekend.
It was the most dominant season yet for the Wichita youth hockey team, which was made up of high school players from across the metro area. The Jr. Thunder finished with a 21-1 record in the league, then won its second straight MAHSHL Tournament title on Monday.
“This is probably the most talented team I’ve ever coached,” Jr. Thunder coach Devon Smith said. “This season has been a lot of fun. We traveled to a tournament outside of our league earlier in the season and played a bunch of Chicago teams and I think that experience really helped… our team (join).
The 11-team league features high school teams from Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, but Wichita’s road to the title lay through three Kansas City teams.
With the tournament being played in the KC area, Smith said the Wichita players took great pride in beating Rockhurst, the KC Saints and the KC Stars.
“We were in their backyard and I know they don’t like a team from Wichita to come up there and win,” Smith said.
After a first-round scare against Rockhurst, which required overtime to advance, the Jr. Thunder regained regular season form that saw them average nearly six goals per game: their 131 goals were 42 more than their average next highest-ranked team.
Monday’s championship game against the KC Stars was tied 1-1 early in the third period, but Wichita’s two best players, Easton Norris and Peyton Novak, gave it their all to help the Jr. Thunder pull away for a 4-1 win.
Easton Norris scored six goals with two assists for the Wichita Jr. Thunder hockey team during its run to a second straight championship. Grant Norris/Courtesy
Norris was named the league’s tournament MVP after finishing with six goals and two assists in three games. The Trinity Academy senior has scored a league-best 32 goals and topped the league with 43 points this season, followed closely by Novak, who finished with 22 goals and 20 assists.
“Easton probably has the best shot I’ve ever coached and I’ve been coaching for 15 years,” Smith said. “He has a lot of talent and speed, but his shooting is what makes him special. But it’s not a one-man show. It’s a team game and we have a great goalkeeper, a great defense and other great goalscorers. A player doesn’t make a team, but Easton is a real sniper.”
Joining those two on the all-conference team were forward Nathan Zane, defensemen Gavin Byers, defensemen Aiden Fyffe, and both Wichita goaltenders in Colby Byers and David Gifford.