By George Ferguson
With seemingly perfect timing, a nasty winter storm has swept into Havre just in time for some high school hockey. Starting tonight, eight high school hockey teams from Montana and Wyoming will converge on the Havre Ice Dome for the State High School hockey tournament.
The action will begin tonight at 7:00 p.m. when the host Havre Ice Hawks take on the Billings Bulls. That game will be followed by a game at 9 p.m. between Helena and Great Falls.
Besides the aforementioned four teams, the tournament will also feature teams from Missoula, Butte, Miles City, Gillette, Wyo. and two teams from Bozeman - the Bozeman Stingers and a private club called Valley Ice Garden.
The eight teams will play a round robin tournament that begins tonight. On Friday the action will get underway at 8:00 a.m. with seven games scheduled with the last one beginning at 8:00 p.m. The tournament will resume on Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. with six more games on the schedule. Saturday's final contest will begin at 6:00 p.m. Sunday, the top six teams will square off in the championship round. The fifth and sixth place contest will be at 8:00 a.m. The consolation game is at 10:00 a.m. and the championship game is scheduled to begin around 12:15 a.m.
As the host team, the Ice Hawks are scheduled to play three games over the first three days of the tournament. After tonight's game against Billings, the Ice Hawks will play Butte at 6:00 p.m. on Friday night and the Bozeman Stingers at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.
"We're really excited," said Ice Hawk head coach Jeff Buchan. "We have everyone healthy and playing well. I think we have a great chance at winning it."
For Havre to be playing in Sunday's championship, the Ice Hawks must clean up a few little things this weekend.
"We have to stay out of the penalty box while still playing physical hockey," Buchan said. "We get too many penalties and they always seem to hurt us."
Still, Havre has a solid unit when it comes to killing opposing team's power plays, thanks largely from having to do it most of the season.
"We have a strong team defensively," Buchan said. "We're good skaters and we don't give up a lot of shots on goal."
As far as offense is concerned, Buchan is mildly concerned. Goals will be there as long as they don't allow their opponents too much offensively.
"You always want to score more," Buchan said. "But the scoring seems to be there when you need it."
Perhaps the biggest key for Havre will be playing at home. After playing only eight home games this season, Buchan believes playing on home ice will be a huge advantage.
"It's always better to be sleeping in your own beds and eating home cooked meals," Buchan said. "The fans in Havre have been fantastic. Their enthusiasm really helps us and can fluster opponents."
Buchan hopes for good attendance not only at Havre games but throughout the weekend as it all goes to a good cause.
"All the money we make here goes directly back into the program," Buchan said. "Not just the high school, but the whole hockey program benefits."
The Ice Hawks roster consists of high school players from Havre, Chinook and the surrounding areas. Mark Larson is the starting goalie for the Ice Hawks. The rest of the Ice Hawk roster includes Levi Briese, Chaz Hurlburt, Jon Johnstone, Mark Benjamin, John Dawson, Garrett Drake, Kaare Engebretson, Ben Erickson, Ernie Fuglevand, Chad Hanson, Andy Hanson, Cody McLain, Andy Meyers, Josh Morse, Zackary Musson, Brett Patrick, Jordan Patterson, Corey Stremcha, Josh and Matt Strissell, Tyson Anderson, Shiloh Barrett, Michael Anderson and Jeremy Heninger.
All of the action will get underway tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Havre Ice Dome. An adult all session pass will be $15, General admission tickets will cost $3 and tickets for grades eight and lower is $2.
- Sports editor Ryan Divish contributed to this story.