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Adapted Floor Hockey: Thunderbolts finish fourth at state

Tyler Tinucci of the Thunderbolts splits a pair of Maple Grove defenders in the second period of the battle for third place in the adapted hockey state tournament Saturday. Tinucci, an eighth grader, was selected to the all-tournament team. (Photo by John Molene)1 / 5
South Washington County's Nick Jones (21) runs to the puck early in the first period in the third-place game against Maple Grove Saturday. Jones was named to the all-tournament team. (Photo by John Molene)2 / 5
Senior wing Justin Neff of the Thunderbolts grins after scoring in the second period to cut Maple Grove's lead to 3-1. (Photo by John Molene)3 / 5
Bryce Smith (4) gives teammate Tyler Tinucci a fist bump after Tinucci scored in the third period against Maple Grove. (Photo by John Molene)4 / 5
Fans in the stands during the Thunderbolts' state tournament game Saturday included East Ridge basketball players Lauren Johnson and Mariah Sexe. (Photo by John Molene)5 / 5

The South Washington County Thunderbolts discovered a challenge at this weekend's state tournament after breezing through the regular season without a loss.

After an opening round win on Friday, the Thunderbolts dropped two straight games Saturday to finish fourth in the 2017 state adapted hockey tournament at Bloomington Jefferson High School.

The Thunderbolts defeated New Prague/TCU/LSH/Belle Plaine/Jordan 10-3 in the tournament opener Friday, advancing to the quarterfinals. Justin Neff scored six goals, and eighth-grade goaltender Carson Rinnels had 12 saves in the win.

But St. Cloud Area roughed up the Thunderbolts in the quarterfinals, winning 15-3. That sent South Washington County into the third place game where it dropped a hard-fought 8-2 decision to Maple Grove.

Maple Grove freshman Jose Guiterrez-Peralto proved impossible to stop for the Thunderbolts in that game, scoring six goals and adding an assist, including three goals in the second period.

The Thunderbolts also ran into a hot goalie as Maple Grove's Jason Robins stopped 17 shots, bringing his tournament total to 83 saves.

Both of the goalies in the quarterfinals were strong, said Thunderbolts coach Jeff Figlmiller.

"St. Cloud was a tough one for us earlier in the morning and then this one this afternoon," Figlmiller said. "That was a big difference.

"(Our) defense was pretty good," Figlmiller added. "But as we talked about earlier in the year, I said defense is going to make or break us, and today it really did. A couple of slower shots got in on us and made it a little tougher for us to come back when we started getting down."

South Washington County's goals were scored by Neff in the first and eighth-grader Tyler Tinucci in the second. Thunderbolts goalie Rinnels stopped 31 shots on goal, making 73 saves for the tournament.

North Suburban defeated St. Cloud Area 10-7 in the tournament championship, the team's third title.

Tinucci and junior wing Nick Jones of the Thunderbolts were named to the all-tournament team.

The Thunderbolts finished the season with a record of 14-2.

South Washington County will return a strong core next season. Just two seniors, Neff and wing Casey Murnan, are graduating this year.

Returning next season will be Tinucci, Jones, Bryce Smith, Carson Rinnels, Mitchell Rinnels and Elizabeth Schmidt.

A significant disadvantage for the Thunderbolts was not facing any teams from the north division before the state tournament. North teams finished first, second and third in this year's tournament.

"The north plays a little higher level than we do," Figlmiller said. "I'd like to play some of the north teams before we get to the state tournament, so we kind of see where they're at."

Coaches are hoping to schedule a pre-season north-south weekend tournament early next season.