For a young team and a first year head coach, this season is going to be an uphill battle for the Havre Ice Hawks high school hockey team.
But with the talent found on the roster accompanied by new head coach Tyler Boyce, a former standout player himself, the Ice Hawks are nothing but optimistic about the upcoming season.
Boyce played in Havre for the Ice Hawks program from the age of seven all the way though age 18. And after his 12 year stretch in Havre came to an end, Boyce found himself playing in Cody, Wyo., for a Junior A team.
And fortunately for the Ice Hawks, after Boyce’s two year stay in Cody, he was available to return home to coach.
“I was in town kind of in limbo,” Boyce said. “I had just gotten a call from the team I had played for to be the assistant coach in Cody, but later I got a call to coach here and I picked here.”
But as a young coach, Boyce also inherited a young team.
Last year the Ice Hawks lost a lot of good seniors, including the likes of Tyler Miller, Kyle Miller, Jesse Majeres, Dillon McLain, goalie Will DeVries, Nick Sunchild and Zack Wavrick.
But the Ice Hawks also return a lot of talented players such as Jonthan Austin, Danny Roe, Justin Jensen and Brayden Grimson. The team may be young overall, but the talent they return gives players and fans a lot of optimism heading into the season, even with the season opener against Billings just around the corner.
“We put the state championship up there to shoot for,” Boyce said. “But a lot of work has to be done to get there. For now, mostly what we are aiming for is developing the kids. This weekend will tell us a lot right off the bat. Billings is one of the top teams in the league so we will see how things go”
Last year Billings took the No. 2 spot at state, while the Ice Hawks finished as the No. 5 team.
Making up the rest of the Ice Hawks roster is goalie Gareth Bernard, Joey DeVries, Ethan Hettinger, Nicholas Howell, Roxanna Jensen, Dane Linquist, Ned Malone, Antonio Morsette, Crystal Robinson, Chase Rolf, Jon Stoner, Levi Wavrick, Nathaniel Welch and Timothy Welch.
Malone, Linquist, Nathaniel Welch and Timothy Welch are a few of the up-and-comers that have also showed Boyce that the program has some young talent they can lean on as well.
This year's strengths are going to be the Ice Hawks speed and physical play.
Havre has some proven scorers in players such as Roe, Grimson and Bernard and their speed and quickness is a big part of that. But Boyce, who was a physical player when he played, would like to see that physicality out on the ice every weekend.
“We need a lot of improvement,” Boyce said. “But we have some good talent and some speed. We are going to be a quick team I think. Speed will be a big part of our game, but I am the kind of guy that likes the physical part of hockey, I like to see some bumping out there.”
Overall, the Ice Hawks have a talented squad this season. They have a solid group of returning players, as well as a talented group of up and comers. And while as of now the team is still young and diverse, Boyce feels the team should be successful as the year pushes on and the kids grow closer.
“We are still meshing a lot,” Boyce said. “We are looking to get the kids to keep coming together and play for each other and I think we will be alright.”
The Ice Hawks schedule is still somewhat in question. Exact times and places are still up in the air, but the season will get going Saturday and Sunday at home against Billings. Both games will take place at the Havre Ice Dome, Saturday the game will begin at 8:15 a.m. and Sunday the game will begin at 11 a.m.