Wichita Jr. Thunder Season Preview

by Ron White

Four months after lifting the Thorne Cup as champions of the Western States Hockey League, the Wichita Jr. Thunder are facing a return to a familiar road, as they look to rebuild their team. The Jr. Thunder were extremely successful in returning players year-over-year, but as a result, they lost a number of players as they aged-out this past season. So much so, that the Jr. Thunder are only returning four players from their championship squad.

Touting the success of the championship, the Jr. Thunder have two players heading to the Federal Hockey League as Peter Cicmanec heads to the Cornwall Nationals and Erik Spath will suit up for the Watertown Wolves. Three more are also headed to the professional ranks in Sweden, as Robert and Henrik Igel both signed with Smedjebacken HC, and Oskar Gullstrom inked a contract with Nynäshamns.

With seven more moving on to the collegiate ranks, and two more bumping up to the North American Hockey League, coach Rob Weingartner will be relying heavily on returners Corey Steinbarger, Trevor Minard, Tyler Inlow, and Christian Winther to instill the culture that helped lead the Jr. Thunder to the championship last season.

Weingartner is a big proponent of keeping teams together, and noted the success of having done so over the past few seasons. As last season ended, the roster combined for a total of 1,854 WSHL games played. Heading into this season, that number drops to 46, and with the incoming roster, Weingartner is planning ahead for the long road once again.

Wichita will have ten incoming players born in 1999 or later, with a total of twelve when you add the returning Minard and Inlow. With such a young team, Weingartner stated he is excited to work with a younger group, and help mold them into a championship-caliber team as they had just exhibited.

Players moving on:

Peter Cicmanec (FHL)
Erik Spath (FHL)
Oskar Gullstrom (Sweden Div. 2)
Robert Igel (Sweden Div. 3)
Henrik Igel (Sweden Div. 3)
Jack McClelland (Canadian University)
Zach Balodis (NCAA DIII)
Adam Conkling (NCAA DIII)
David Good (NCAA DIII)
Alex Smith (ACHA DI)
Tyler Crites (ACHA DI)
Alec Risser (ACHA DIII)
Martin Trudman (NAHL)
Simon Sefcik (NAHL)

Returning players:

Corey Steinbarger (D) 1998
Trevor Minard (D) 1999
Tyler Inlow (F) 2000
Christian Winther (F) 1998

New additions:

Conner Green (G) 1999
Austin Tilton (G) 1999
Samuel Pelech (F) 1999
Jack Lebar (D) 1999
Johnny Tucker (D) 1998
Garret Ropka (D) 2000
Trey Bruggeman (D) 1997
Jordan Altenburg (D) 1999
David Zaryki (F) 2001
Braeden Thomas (F) 2000
Tyler Alverson (F) 2000
Corey Schulthies (F) 1998
Keegan Barker (F) 1999


Story by Eric Rodgers, WSHL Midwest Division correspondent. Be sure to follow Eric on Twitter, @ericrsports

Photo courtesy of Marc Mauno