'Bolts claim second at state
BLOOMINGTON — South Washington first got its revenge by beating Maple Grove. Then, the Thunderbolts got their ticket to the finals with a win against North Suburban, the defending state champs.
South Washington wasn't able to get the win in the state adapted hockey CI Division championship against St. Cloud Area as the Slapshots won 13-4. But coming home with some hardware capped off a memorable run for the Thunderbolts.
"This group has not made it this far," said freshman forward Tyler Tinucci. "It's really fun.
"Sometimes it's hard to beat a squad that has that ability (in St. Cloud Area). No matter what, I'm proud of this team for making it this far. This is probably the best team I've been on for sports in a long time."
The tournament began Friday with an 18-5 win over Maple Grove. Tinucci had 10 points to lead the Thunderbolts, who jumped out to a three-goal lead to open the game.
"It was a little redemption Friday night and that was fun," said South Washington head coach Jeff Figlmiller. In the 2017 state tournament, the Thunderbolts lost 8-2 in the third-place game to Maple Grove.
Then came the defending state champs in the semifinals, and neither South Washington or North Suburban (Centennial and Spring Lake Park) gained much of an edge as the Thunderbolts led 4-3 after two periods. Bryce Smith scored a goal to make it 5-3 before the Cougars rattled off two goals in 65 seconds to tie the game.
Tinucci, who came up with seven goals and one assist in the semis, scored the game-winning goal at the 7:46 mark of the third period, followed by a Nicholas Jones score 31 seconds later for a 7-5 advantage en route to a 9-6 win. Jones finished with two goals against North Suburban.
"It's crazy. We were like, OK, let's beat (Maple Grove), lets get revenge. We go (Saturday), we face our next team. We use everything we got at North Suburban," Tinucci said. "We got this far and if we lose, here's to second."
Smith, along with fellow defenseman Nathan Ponder, were trying to dive after every shot, hoping to get a block and help out goaltender Carson Rinnels as much as possible.
"I didn't want them to score on my goalie," Smith said. "So I slid and stopped them."
That set up a rematch of last year's semifinals between South Washington and St. Cloud Area. The Slapshots dominated the start of the game with two goals in the first minute en route to a 6-2 first-period lead. Tinucci scored a trio of goals in the second period, with assists from Mathew Jenkins and Smith. Tinucci's final goal of the tournament came in the third on an assist from Smith.
St. Cloud Area got six goals and two assists from Brian Jones along with five points from Jordan Williams.
"I'm really proud of our kids. We got to the championship game, which is fantastic," Figlmiller said. "This was our first loss of the year. They played well and everyone got in."
Tinucci, Smith and Ponder were named to the All-Tournament team as the Thunderbolts close out the season with a 15-1 record.
"We worked hard and did a lot of scoring and passing," Smith said. "We did really good and we made it all the way here."