Hockey players are tough by nature, and they can endure a lot. For the Havre Ice Hawks high school hockey team, this season hasn’t been an easy one.
But for the senior leaders on the Ice Hawks’ squad, keeping their heads up and staying positive through difficult times has been something the’ve had no trouble doing because they love the game and they love the Ice Hawks.
There are just a handful of games left for Havre seniors Ned Malone, Justin Miller, Dustin Armstrong, Dane Linquist, Nick Howell, Jon Stoner and Megan Kline. They all had high hopes for the 2013-2014 season, but sitting at 3-8-1, that hasn’t been the case to this point. The Ice Hawks, led by the talented core of senior skaters, know if they can put a run together heading into the state tournament that anything is still possible, including a run at a state championship.
Head coach Scott Gunderson would love to see his seniors go out on top.
“Coaching these seniors has been good,” Gunderson said. “They bring a lot of experience to the team, and they have been good examples for the rest of the team. They all bring a lot of leadership. A couple of them really stand out and lead vocally, but quite a few of them are quieter and really lead by example.
“We are always trying to improve, and we are still talking about state,” Gunderson added. “We just have to keep working hard and keep improving. But they need to believe in themselves more, and I think they got a lot of their confidence back this week. They need to believe that they can compete at state, and I would love to see these seniors playing in the state finals. It all just depends on how we can finish the season and where we get seeded. But I really believe we stand a chance if these seniors can continue to lead, and we can go out there and play with confidence.”
Malone, Miller, and Armstrong have consistently led the team in scoring this season. Their ability to lead the team in statistics has also been key in them helping lead by example as well this year. But players like Linquist have also stepped up their play on the ice. Linquist is a leader on the defense, and his play could prove to be crucial in the final stretch this year.
With just three wins, the seniors have not had the season they were looking for. But with most of these seniors playing for the majority of their lives, as long as they are still having fun, the season can still be a positive one.
“It has always been fun for me,” Malone said. “This is my favorite sport, so it never stops being fun. We just need to keep having fun and, hopefully, we can play better and get some wins at state. I think we are hitting everything in practice; we just need it to come together (in games). I have just tried to stay focused and play hard knowing this is my last year.”
It may be sad for some seniors playing in their final games in the Ice Dome, but seniors like Kline put a positive spin on things.
Kline has played hockey for several years and is the only girl on the squad this year. But she has also played soccer for over a decade and looks at leaving hockey as just beginning the next stage in her life. But just like all the rest of the seniors, she would love to go out with a run of wins in the state playoffs or even a shot at a state title.
“A state title would be (the perfect way to go out), but if we can’t do that, maybe a bench brawl would be nice.” Kline said laughing. “And it is sad to be a senior, but I am going off to play college soccer, I have been playing soccer for 11 years, so I am not too sad. I will miss hockey, but it was a good stage of my life and it is time to move on.”
Armstrong also still has his sights set on state.
“I have enjoyed the season, but more wins would have been nice,” Armstrong said. “A state title would be a nice way to go out. If we play our best hockey, I think we can compete for that. We just need more practice. I don’t think there is anything really to change, just score more I guess.”
Malone, Miller, Armstrong, Linquist, Howell, Stoner and Kline have been major contributors to the Ice Hawks over the years and are nearing the end of their high school careers on the ice.
The Ice Hawks will play their final games at the Ice Dome this weekend and the seniors will be honored at 5:15 p.m. Saturday.