Western States Hockey League,WSHL,Cheyenne Stampede,USA Junior Hockey

Western States Hockey League: Wichita Jr. Thunder change lineup, hungry to defend title

The reigning Western States Hockey League champion Wichita Thunder will have a different look this year.

By Brian Lester

The Thunder lost 21 of its 25 players from last year’s title team. Head coach Rob Weingartner knows he has his work cut out for him heading into the new year.

“In years past, we have done a good job of returning players, but the good news is that we have younger talent we can build up and go from there,” Weingartner said.

Putting a roster together, though, was anything but easy.

“It’s harder than I thought. I figured a few more players would want to come here to play,” Weingartner said. “We recruit as hard as anybody, but when players have a chance to play closer to home, they usually choose that.

“It did help a little that we won [the title] last year, but Wichita is still Wichita. It’s hard to sell parents and players on this area until I get them here to see our facilities and amount of ice time and training time we get. It’s then they realize the developmental opportunity we provide.”

Weingartner is accustomed to building a winning team, though, and believes he can do it again, even if takes a little time.

“We built a team in five years and won. We feel like we can do that again,” Weingartner said. “It just takes time for players to adjust and to learn our systems.”

The Thunder play in a rugged Mid-Western Division and Weingartner knows nothing will come easy. His team will have to be ready to play at the highest level possible night in and night out if it’s going to compete for a playoff spot again.

“I’d like to see us have a high compete level,” Weingartner said. “Winning games comes from that compete level. We play in an incredibly hard division. There are no easy games. I just want to see us compete hard every night and come back ready to play the next night and get better no matter what the score is.”

 

Read past Western States Hockey League articles:

Warriors Sound off about first WSHL season

Kapusta ushers San Diego Sabers into new era