Competitive Drive: High school hockey has one passionate option in Wichita

Competitive Drive

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Hockey isn’t high on the list when it comes to high school sports in Kansas. It’s not second or third either, but one traveling team in Wichita continues to prove other teams wrong, grow their program, and win in the process.

Over 10 different high schools in the Wichita area make up the junior varsity and varsity rosters for the Junior Thunder, a traveling team for high school-aged players based in Wichita.

“It’s interesting, you know you get people walking up asking do you get in fights, is it cold?” said Griffin Barker, a senior from Northwest High School that is one of the team captains for the Thunder.

The Thunder are the only high school hockey team in Wichita and one of the only teams in Kansas. They play in the Mid America High School Hockey League, with teams from surrounding states.

“There’s us, and then there are maybe a couple in Kansas City. Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas,” said Jeff Cline. The head coach of the Thunder. “I think they have a total of five or six teams up there, and that’s where we play the core of our games.”

The Thunder are a traveling team, and they do just that with games in nearby states and tournaments across the country.

“We travel everywhere. We’ve been to Dallas, Colorado, and St. Louis. We’ve been everywhere,” said Carson Dutcher, a team captain from Derby High School.

Being from Kansas, the Thunder don’t always get the respect on the ice from their opponents in northern states, where hockey is more popular. However, they have proved some of those teams wrong.

“A lot of teams think well these guys are from Kansas, so they’re not going to be that good, but last year, we went to Indianapolis, and we played up there against the northern teams, and we won the whole thing,” said Easton Norris, a junior team captain from Trinity Academy in Wichita.

The Thunder probably won’t play in front of a sold-out crowd or a large student section, but they play the game because they love it, and that’s good enough.

“A lot of the people that are involved are really passionate about hockey. We have a really good hockey community here. It’s small bits. It’s passionate,” said Cline.

For more information on the Junior Thunder, click here.

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