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Evansville Thunder set to make history at USA Nationals

Updated: Apr. 12, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The Evansville Thunder hockey team will make history Thursday afternoon as the team will take the ice at the 2021 USA Nationals - the first high-school level team in Evansville to do so. Before heading to Omaha, Nebraska to compete, the Thunder held a youth clinic on Monday night. Thunder players and coaches helped organize drills for the Nashville Predators youth hockey program.

”It’s going to be an amazing experience for myself and the team. It’s also great for the organization to get more kids into this sport,” said sophomore defenseman, Eli Sommers.

Evansville Thunder is comprised of the best high school hockey players in the Evansville area, participating in a grueling September-March schedule. The team is coached by Brian Vaal, a former member of the Thunder hockey team back in the 1990s-2000s.

“This is a family,” said Vaal. “Any player that’s ever worn the Evansville Thunder jersey to know that we’ve got a team at Nationals, we’re all very proud of them and we would love to see them take it as far as they go.”

Some players on the team have been suiting up side-by-side for over a decade, with their chemistry on the ice a main reason they’ve gotten so far.

”I’ve played with most of these guys for 14 years,” said senior center, Carson Treadway. “I’m there with my brothers and it means a lot to be going there with them.”

The Thunder will open up Pool Play Thursday afternoon, facing Flower Mounds of Marcus, Texas at 4:00 CT. On Friday, Evansville will play Osseo Maple Grove Saints out of Minnesota and wrap up play Saturday morning with the Omaha Jr. Lancers. The team has to win two out of its’ four games to advance in the tournament.

“We’re built for it,” said Vaal. “We have the deep bench for it and we have the most outstanding goalies in the state and I think they’re going to keep us in it and allow us a couple opportunities to score some goals.”

“[I’m] most excited to just get out there and compete,” said Treadway. “Show everybody that Indiana is not just some fly over state, that we know how to play hockey and we’re ready to play.”

14 News will keep viewers updated on-air and online throughout the week on the teams’ standings at the USA National Championships.

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