AMHERST - A new era of Vikings hockey begins Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Amherst Stadium when the Amherst Regional High School Vikings hockey team steps onto the ice.
The Vikings will be playing their first Division 2 Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation hockey game in 25 years when they face off against the Northumberland Nighthawks.
"We have kids who could have played in Junior B and Major Midget this year," said coach Wayne MacKenzie. "They're a lot of goods kids who came through the system and played at the top level."
Andrew Skinner is the Vikings captain, while Matt Beal and Stephen Belyea are the assistants.
All three played Midget AAA hockey last year.
"I'm excited to get on the ice and represent the school," said Beal.
The other three high school teams the Vikings will compete against this season are CEC, North Nova and JH Gillis, which are all Division 1 teams.
"We'll be playing some tough competition, which is good," said MacKenzie.
The Vikings have 16 players and two goaltenders. They will play two times a week and practice two times a week.
"The kids playing high school hockey are held to a higher standard," said coach Derek Hebert. "They have to maintain good grades, have perfect attendance and attend all their practices."
Home games are played most Friday nights, and practices are Tuesday's and Thursday's at 6:30 a.m.
"Having practices in the morning gives them more time at night to go to their jobs and do their homework," said Hebert.
Skinner said it's tough to wake up early in the morning for practice but added, "I'll get used to it as the season goes on."
The coach's have been working on icing a high school team since January.
"We had to go in with a business proposition and they (the NSSAF) wanted to see how we were going to pay for it and make sure we had a competitive team," said MacKenzie.
The team helped pay for equipment and ice-time by securing two major sponsors - Weston Bakeries and The Amherst Lions Club.
The sponsors will drop the puck during the season opener on Friday.
"A lot of businesses have donated a lot to the team," said MacKenzie. "If it wasn't for them we wouldn't be able to have all the gear we have."
Tickets for the game go on sale Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Amherst Stadium.