The Hazen-Beulah North Stars have returned to the ranks of the varsity level.
It’s a loud and energetic practice at the Hazen All Seasons Arena. A practice atmosphere that had been absent in the last few seasons for the North Stars.
“We used to play with seven skaters and a goalie,” said senior Gabe Pfliger. “We’ve been really low on numbers the last couple of years. There was an age gap, but it’s pretty awesome this year to play with a full roster.”
Hazen-Beulah has climbed back to play at varsity. A flood of new players finding a new-found interest in hockey breathing life into the program.
“We’ve got a couple of kids on the ice right now whose dads played high school hockey,” head coach Dan Frei said. “Prior to that, there really were none. Everybody that came through was first-time hockey players. So we’re getting that second generation and that hockey culture into town.”
The culture is changing and so are the stakes. For many of these seniors, playing for a title is a new experience.
“The past few years, it was like the practices didn’t really matter because we didn’t feel like we had a shot,” said senior Dayton Fiddler. “Now we have a shot so we’re taking it super seriously and we’re starting to look like a different team.”
The North Stars are still easing into a varsity schedule only a few teams still playing them at the JV level until they have another varsity season under their belt.
“The compete level’s higher out here with 29 hockey players and only 20 dressing for varsity games,” Frei said. “You want to play, you got to work hard every night. You got to come to practice every day, you got to show up.”
Players know this program has a long way to go, but understand that playing hockey is more than just the wins and losses.
“We may not be the best team in the state,” said Pfliger. “But you know it’s a lot of fun being out here with the guys and playing, and so I’m just here for the fun of it.”
Hazen-Beulah plays tonight at home against the Bismarck JV team at 7 p.m. CST.