BISMARCK, N.D. — Following a fifth-place finish at the state tournament to end last season, the Century Patriots are using a strong conclusion to last year as motivation heading into the 2023-24 season.

“It’s always nice to end the year with a win,” head coach Troy Olson says. “Only three teams get to do that and it’s a lot better locker room at the state tournament knowing your season’s over, but you ended on top. I think if anything, it should prove to us that we can compete with anyone throughout the state.”

“I think that was just a confidence booster for the whole team and this whole upcoming game,” senior Ben LaDuke adds. “We know we can play and make another run this year.”

The Patriots are returning a large core from last year’s team, only graduating four seniors.

“This is part of a group that got along really well in the room last year,” Olson says. “A lot of good character guys, you know, they’re good friends. They pull for each other, and they push each other in practice.”

“It makes me as a player and as a team, very confident that we have a lot of returners this year,” senior Kaden Roness says. “I mean, the senior class, again, was amazing last year. Take us under our wing and we’ll have a really good senior class again this year.”

While Century only saw four players move on following last season, those four players were the team’s captains. This year’s group of seniors are stepping up to fill the leadership void.

“I think a lot of us seniors are all trying to play that leadership role,” LaDuke says. “Olly always says you don’t need a letter to be a captain. Last year we used all those guys as role models. So we know what it takes to be a leader on this team.”

“Honestly, we’ve got a good core group of leaders this year, and so sometimes the C’s are just a formality,” Olson adds. “We always tell them, you don’t have to have a letter on your chest to be a leader.”

Each year, the Patriots hang their hat on being tough defensively, and this squad is filled with young players on the defensive side. However, the seniors are enjoying the improvements made by the program’s youth, who made the jump to the varsity level.

“Most of them played J.V. Hockey last year and rotating in varsity,” Roness says. “They’ve shown a lot of hard work and passion for the game and it’s just really fun to watch. As a senior, you think you kind of have it easy, but no, not with Century hockey. A lot of talented younger guys are making work and making work for your spot.”

The Patriots quest for their first state title in program history begins on November 24th in West Fargo against the Packers.