By Joe Kiesa and Angela Bussone
“In the past we always said that we were gonna do good in (the state tournament) but we have always sucked,” says Jamesville-DeWitt High School freshman Jack Austin. “This year we did what we always said we were gonna do.” Austin is a defenseman for the Onondaga Thunder Bantam Travel team, who are the 2013 New York State Tier III 14u championship team. Along with Austin, there are two other J-DHS freshmen on this club team: Liam Sherwood and Will Eimas- Dietrich. All players on the team are local, and a majority are from Fayetteville- Manlius, Westhill, and Christian Brothers Academy.
“I don’t think that I have ever been so nervous for a game in my life,” says Dietrich about playing in the state championship game that was held in Amherst, NY which is near Buffalo. “Our coach (Robert Padula), in the beginning of the season, told us that our goal was to win states. To win states and go beyond to regionals is surreal,” says Dietrich. The championship game ended with the Thunder on top by five. Most championship games would usually have a closer score than this, but the team utilized everything that they had learned throughout the year in the game. The team had a notable performance from their forward Ben McCreary who had a hat-trick, and who is a freshman at CBA.
“The best part of the game was the last 30 seconds, because that’s when when we knew it was over because we were up by so much,” says Sherwood. Austin describes their game as “just fundamental hockey, we just played our game.” Most of this team has played together for a long time so they had an advantage against most other teams where a lot of the kids haven’t played with each other before.
After the state tournament, the team moved on to the regional tournament where they represented NYS and played representatives from other states around the Northeast. The Thunder did well enough to make it to the regional finals, but were defeated by the Maine Black Bears. The score of the finals was four to nothing.