The Twin City Thunder know that they can be a going concern for their fellow NCDC squads – after all, they reached the league semifinals as just a second-year organization in 2021, falling only to the eventual Dineen Cup champion Jersey Hitmen.
They made the playoffs again this past season, and finished just nine points out of first place in the North Division. So it goes to show that the teams Head Coach Dan Hodge puts together in the northeastern corner of the NCDC is always a tough draw. They begin the season on Saturday, Sept. 24, against the Boston Junior Bruins in Marlborough, Mass. From there, they return to Marlborough for the BJB Shootout and then days later, they’re in New Jersey for the Hitmen Classic, playing six showcase games in eight days from Oct. 1-8.
“This season we are looking at a younger, more skilled unit with really good team speed and depth up front,” said Hodge, who also serves as a co-owner of the Thunder. “Last season, we wanted more production from the back end and we believe we have the players to add offense as well as be sound defensively.
“We have two top goalies who are going to give us a chance to win every night,” Hodge added. “The group has become close very fast, which is a testament to our leaders. As a staff, we have noticed that the overall team creativity and skill has been very high so far.”
The team will lean heavily upon defenseman Blake Tierney, who helped solidify the 2021-22 Thunder defense and will once again helm the blueline corps.
“Tierney was a solid defenseman last season who was playing his best hockey at the end of the season. He was a warrior down the stretch and, in the playoffs, a player we could really rely on,” said Hodge. “[He has] stepped up to make the new players feel welcome and introduce them to our culture.”
Additionally, the Thunder welcome back ‘02 Trace Norwell, who had 32 points in 48 games last year, and Tommy Gannon, who played in 19 games with the NCDC squad.
Among the many newcomers are the two aforementioned exciting goaltenders that Hodge expects to be major difference-makers in wins.
Trey Miller, an ‘02, enters with prior NCDC experience and fellow ‘02 goalie Chris Jackson “has proven he can be a top goalie in our league.”
“Not only will they be tough to score on, but their competitive natures will make it tougher on our guys to score in practice, which will benefit our players when it comes to games,” Hodge said. “The NCDC has some outstanding goalies and we will have two very good options between the pipes.”
The Thunder welcome in former USPHL Premier All-Star Jonah Mortenson, a “throwback forward with a scorer’s touch” who comes from the Tampa Bay Juniors.
Nolan Leonard and Ben Portner join as ‘04’s both with a bright future who will attract a lot of college attention.
“Leonard is a dynamic skating forward who can score and Portner has great vision, and he will create opportunities for his linemates,” added Hodge.
On the back end, ‘03 Anthony Marra comes in with vision and playmaking ability “that will make him tough for opponents to contain.”
Former USPHL Premier Thunder players Gavin Simopoulos and Nick Pomerleau (both ‘03’s) and Damon Bossie (‘04) are moving up to the NCDC squad.
“Pomerleau played some NCDC games last season and performed well. Simopoulos has really bought in to what we are about here. He spent two years at premier and put in some great work over the summer,” said Hodge. “He had opportunities to go elsewhere this off-season, but he believed in our staff and his work ethic and loyalty has paid off for him. Bossie is a young strong defenseman who is just scratching the surface of how good he can be.”
This season we will have more team speed than in the past. We have a good balance of older and younger players,” said Hodge. “We will be more dynamic on the back end this season.”