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Thunderbolts take perfect record to state

South Washington County senior Bryce Smith slaps a shot at Buffalo in a section game Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at Park. Smith scored six goals to help the Thunderbolts take an 18-3 victory. John Molene / Sports Writer 1 / 4
South Washington County's Elliot Miller (15), Sydney Sexton (12) and Mitchell Rinnels (9) surround the puck in a playoff game Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at Park. John Molene / Sports Writer 2 / 4
South Washington County's Mitchell Rinnels fires the puck down the sidelines in the second period against Buffalo in the Thunderbolts state-tournament-clinching win. John Molene / Sports Writer 3 / 4
Sophomore Elizabeth Schmidt prepares to shoot for the Thunderbolts against Buffalo Wednesday, March 7, 2018. John Molene / Sports Writer 4 / 4

It's back to state for the South Washington County Thunderbolts.

Not that there was much doubt coming into Wednesday's section match.

The Thunderbolts looked strong in an 18-3 win over visiting Buffalo Adapted at Park High School on March 7.

"Passing started out great," coach Jeff Figlmiller said. "We had great passes. We got our shots in right away, made some goals and gained our confidence. That's the No. 1 thing at the start of our game. We had three or four goals right away. We left a lot of our starters in line in there, getting that done. That was huge. Building some confidence and that's what we're going to need (at state).

"And of course our defense is going to have to be really strong," Figlmiller added. "Making sure we're pushing that puck to the outside, not bringing it across the middle. We're going to be playing some teams that if we bring a puck across the middle they're going to get a shot on us and it's not going to be good."

Ninth-grade center Tyler Tinucci had eight goals and four assists to lead the Thunderbolts. Senior Bryce Smith scored six goals with two assists. South Washington County's Nick Jones scored twice, while Jack Swedahl and Elliott Miller had one goal each.

"I thought we played hard, passing the puck well," said Jones, one of four seniors on the team along with Smith, Leah Huntley and Sydney Sexton.

South Washington County improved to 15-0 on the season.

The Thunderbolts led 8-0 after one period and 14-2 after the second.

The Thunderbolts qualified for the eight-team state adapted hockey tournament Friday, March 16, and Saturday, March 17, at Bloomington Jefferson High School.

South Washington County finished fourth in last season's state tournament and were consolation champions two seasons ago.