The tension mounts as a ’Stoga player and his opponent stare each other down, readying themselves for the faceoff until a puck dropped between them finally breaks the silence. Each team erupts as Conestoga gains control, and less than two minutes later, the Pioneers have already scored the first goal of the game.
This goal has been one of many in a successful season for the varsity boys’ ice hockey team. With a 7-2-3 record, the team is currently set to compete for the Flyers Cup, a tournament they won two years ago and are looking to win again with a much newer team after losing ten seniors to graduation last year.
“We have a lot of youngsters that we’ll need to build up,” senior captain Alex Smith said. “It’s a reforming year, as well as a year we’re pushing for the Flyers Cup.”
This season was not expected to go so well for the team, Smith said. But even as underdogs, they have been able to have a winning season.
“It’s really inspiring for me to see these kids that have never played varsity coming up and taking the reins,” Smith said. “It’s definitely the younger kids stepping up that has really brought this team as far as we have gone.”
Even with strong underclassmen, the team has had quite a few challenges to overcome to reach the success that they have had this season.
A high number of injuries have provided a challenge for the Pioneers, leading to an inconsistent lineup.
Last week Smith broke his foot, adding another injury that will cause a change in the strategy of the team. With the possibility that Smith will not be able to play in the Flyers Cup, the Pioneers have switched to a more defensive approach, senior Cal Bailey said.
Though younger players have been stepping up, losing seniors last year has been something else that Conestoga has had to overcome.
“Losing a lot of players last year, you have to rebuild,” Bailey said. “Starting with a clean slate is definitely more difficult but we’re going to try to get it done.”