By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
The Thunder is ready to make their 2023-24 season debut when the Boston Junior Bruins Shootout event begins this Friday. The Thunder have been resilient in the New England Division, making playoffs the past three years in a row, including a league semifinal and a North semifinal to their name. Expect them to be in the playoff conversation as always in this new, dawning season.
“We’re really excited about the group we have right now. We’ve managed to keep a good core of our returners from the previous season,” said Owner/GM/Head Coach Dan Hodge. “We have a good amount of speed throughout our forward core and feel comfortable with the size and depth on defense.”
The Thunder looked deeply into building up their speed for the new season, so that they can better wear opponents down and win the conditioning battles.
“This year’s team will have much more speed. We really looked to add some fast-paced, high-tempo guys to help replace the age-outs from the previous season,” said Hodge. “Overall the speed throughout our lineup this year will be one of our biggest differences from last year.”
The Thunder staff were still getting to know their players, who were in turn all still getting to know each other up until this coming weekend’s game day (they open against the Rockets Hockey Club on Saturday afternoon).
“We’re going to wait a little bit until we decide on our leadership roles,” said Hodge. “It allows for us to see everyone/get to know the players for a period of time before making our final decisions on who our leadership group will be. We will have final decisions in the upcoming weeks.”
The returning forwards are Nolan Leonard, Patrick Last, Edvin Robertsson and Denis Maliew, while on the bluel ine, the team returns Cullen McCormick and Tyler Fisher.
The Thunder are also bringing in some players whom they hope can be difference-makers, both in individual games and in terms of the postseason. Forwards Gavin Brandon and Christian Day (‘04) both join from the New Hampton School. Day also played for the Northern Cyclones 18U Prep team and Brandon split time with the Islanders Hockey Club 18U squad.
On defense, the Thunder feature ‘05 Tyler Kelly, ‘05 Andrew Toomey and an ‘06 from this year’s 2023 NCDC Entry Draft, Leo Mantenuto.
This is the season the Thunder hope to get past that level they haven’t quite yet reached, but too which they have come close – the Dineen Cup Finals.
“Obviously, we’ve had decent playoff success the last couple of years, but haven’t been able to make it over that hump, so with the returning core that we have and the way it ended for us last year, a lot of the guys remember that feeling,” said Hodge, “and they are really working hard to make sure we give ourselves a chance for a deep playoff run.”