The cold weather continues to steadily roll in and batter the Hi-Line, and while most may not be ready for winter and all that it brings, the Havre Ice Hawks high school hockey team is.
While it has been a roller coaster ride at best over the last couple of seasons, this senior and junior laden Ice Hawk’s squad is looking to make their way to the top of the ranks this season. Practice has already gotten well underway, but the Ice Hawks will open the 2013 season this weekend at the Havre Ice Dome in Havre. The Ice Hawks will host Glasgow Saturday for two games. The puck will drop for game one at 11 a.m., followed by another game at 6 p.m.
A couple of wins over Glasgow Saturday would be the start the Ice Hawks need if they hope to turn things around. Last year they finished with a regular season record of 7-14-2 and as the No. 6 seed heading into the state tournament. The Ice Hawks went 0-2 at state. But two seasons ago, they missed the state tournament completely after earning a record of 8-12-0.
But second-year head coach Scott Gunderson already has high hopes for a new season, especially since he is bringing in eight seniors and six juniors to help lead the way.
“We really feel good about our returners and their experience going into this year,” Gunderson said. “They have all had great attitudes at practice and have been working hard. But facing the teams that we face, our seniors really need to keep working hard and play well this season.”
Glasgow is always a tough team on Havre’s schedule, but some favorites in the state this year include teams out of Missoula, Billings, and Kalispell/Whitefish. But the Ice Hawks will also face teams like Great Falls, Butte, Helena and Salmon, Idaho, this season. If the Ice Hawks want to compete at the state level, they will have to show they can compete in their regular season games first. They will get the first test Saturday against Glasgow, hopefully being led to a couple of wins by seniors Ned Malone (forward), Justin Miller (center), Dustin Armstrong (wing), Trevor Jensen (wing), Dane Linquist (defender), Nick Howell, Jon Stoner and Megan Kline.
Juniors Brandon Huntington, Gavin Gunderson, Caleb McClain, Alex Hansen, Kyle Konesky and Josh Emge (second year goalie) will also be key.
“We really have a good rivalry with Glasgow,” Coach Gunderson said. “They always play hard against us and we always play hard against them, it really could go either way every time we meet. But I am hoping to open up the season by controlling the puck and not giving it up so much. We also want to put more pressure on their puck carrier and get more shots on net. If we can do that, I think we could grab a couple wins right off the bat, which would be nice.”
The Ice Hawks also bring quite a few newcomers to the high school team. Coming up from bantams, first-year players include Alex Cole, Blake Hansen, Nick Stump, Zack Frahm and Madison Knudson.
Even with the large group of seniors and juniors coming back, the experience drops off dramatically. Gunderson plans on using four lines this season, but three to start the season. The team is short on defensive players as well, and the Ice Hawks will heavily lean on the three lines until the young players can adapt to the speed of playing at the high school level.
The team also looks different with a lot of kids moving or switching positions from last season to this season. There will be a learning curve as the Ice Hawks progress and get more comfortable with personnel, as well while they continue to focus on the offensive attack. Emge had a standout season in the goal in his first year last season, and will be key this year. But as the young kids transition, Gunderson is also hoping to fire up their goal scoring to help take some of the pressure off of Emge this season.
“The transition to high school hockey is an eye opener because it is a lot faster,” Gunderson said. “So that fourth line really has to work hard in their first year, but they really need to step up and get faster so they can help out this season too. And I was really pleased with Emge last year in the net. But we are trying to get the offense going so that we can help him out.”
A new season begins Saturday when the Ice Hawks welcome Glasgow to the Ice Dome at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.