SPRINGHILL - Hockey isn't what it used to be for two Springhill hockey players.
"It's intense," said defenceman Brandon MacDonald.
"It's fast," said forward Doug Barton.
Fast and furious play is par-for-the-course since the 14-year-old friends and teammates made the jump to the Nova Scotia Major Bantam Hockey League for the 2012-2013 season.
Now playing for the Truro Bearcats Major Bantam's, the Springhill High School Grade 9 students played last season with the Bantam AA Ramblers in the Cumberland County Minor Hockey Association.
"We didn't do any training for Bantam AA, but in Major Bantam we train on and off the ice twice a week," said MacDonald.
"We worked out all summer," added Barton.
Off-ice training includes sprints and 20-minutes going up and down stairs.
On-ice practices are every Tuesday and Thursday in Truro, and include power play drills and breakout drills.
"We customize practices to different game plans depending on what opponent we'll be facing in the next game," said Landon Crowe, who is also from Springhill and is the Bantam Bearcats goalie coach and trainer.
As luck would have it, the Bearcats play two home games this month in Springhill, allowing Barton and MacDonald to play on their home-ice.
They're playing the games in Springhill because, "We're transitioning from the Colchester Stadium to the new Civic Centre in Truro, which is taking longer than expected," said Crowe.
They play two games in Springhill before Christmas, this Sunday and the following Sunday, and two games in Springhill after Christmas.
"The games provide an opportunity to build interest by letting people see what the Truro Major Bantam program is all about," said Crowe. "It's a regional team, so we draw from this area as well."
Crowe said MacDonald and Barton are 'great' additions to the team.
MacDonald is five-foot-eleven and weighs 170 pounds, making him the biggest Bearcats player.
"Brandon plays a rugged game. He's a big body on the ice," said Crowe. "He's big but he's also quite mobile. He has good hands and plays with his head up. He brings a domination factor on the blue-line. It helps having a big body back there.
"Dougie brings a lot of finesse and skill," added Crowe. "He sees the ice really well and that can benefit the team in any situation. It's not something you can teach, so when you have a player who possesses those skills you have to take advantage of them. “
After playing Bantam, both players said they would like to play for the Weeks Major Midgets, and then move on from there.
"I'd like to play Junior A (Maritime Hockey League), said MacDonald.
"I'd like to go to the Q (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)," said Barton.
Both said they need to work hard on their skating and shooting, and remain focused to make their dreams come true.
Crowe said both players "have great positive attitudes, which goes a long way towards helping our program and will help them achieve their goals.
"And it's good to see we have two Springhill kids on the team," added Crowe. "We've had success with kids from this area playing in the program and, hopefully, more kids will be inspired to make the jump to major bantam hockey."
The Bearcats play the Newbridge Senators Sunday beginning at 12 p.m. at the Richard Calder Arena in Springhill, and then return to Springhill Oct. 21 for a 12 p.m. start against the Harbour Storm