HACKENSACK, N.J. -- The Montana Thunderblades displayed plenty of thunder this past week, culminated by winning the championship game of the USA Hockey U14 Tier II national tournament on Sunday.
The top-seeded Thunderblades defeated Team South Dakota 3-1 in the title tilt. The Thunderblades finished the tourney a perfect 5-0. South Dakota was seeded second.
The Thunderblades finished third at this tournament two years ago playing in the 12-and-under bracket. Most of the same players are on this year's team.
"It was pretty emotional. We lost at nationals two years ago in the semifinals," coach Mike Hass of Billings said. "At that time we all talked about it in the locker room, how we would come back and win this national championship. Two years later, it was two years of hard work coming together at the right time."
South Dakota struck first, with an even-strength goal early in the first period. Montana answered with goals by Chase Wesen and Kody Chamberlin to lead 2-1 at the first intermission.
Dawson Smith scored Montana's last goal of the contest, at the 17:24 mark of the second period.
Thunderblades goalie Dysen Skinner had another stellar game, posting 14 saves against 15 shots.
For the tourney, the Thunderblades' Austin Leadbetter was the top scorer with 12 points (four goals, eight assists). Kaden Lindberg, Wesen and Cody Gagnon all tied for second in the tourney for points with 10 each. As a team, the Thunderblades scored 33 goals and only allowed five.
"It is a great honor to be a national champion," Hass said. "It is one of those things when we are looking at the program, it lists all the national champions and they all sit on one page and we get to be there soon now. It is quite and honor and amazing."
Hass said it is the second national championship for the Thunderblades organization. The 1994 (birth year) Thunderblades won the U16 national championship in 2010 he said.