AMHERST - They only got to don the ARHS Vikings hockey jersey for one season but eight graduates will always be able to say they were a part of the team that helped reignite high school hockey in Amherst after a 25-year hiatus.
The Vikings playoff hockey run begins Friday night but when it's all over Ryan Hunter, Andrew Skinner, Kirk Hamilton, Brett Gallant, Mitchell Maltby, Michael Patterson, Joel Boyle and Matt Beal will never play on the same team again.
They all say playing high school hockey was a great experience, and said they will miss playing for their high school.
- Andrew Skinner (captain)
"It was exciting and it was fun playing with all my friends," said Skinner, "And I've never really been a captain before, so that was a good feeling."
Skinner said if was fun playing in front of good-sized crowds.
He said he will try out for Junior B Hockey next year, but if he doesn't make Junior B he will try our for a Junior C team.
- Joel Boyle
"It was exciting to be part of the first team in 25 years," said Boyle. "It was fun. I got to play with some of my best friends and we had some really good crowds come out to watch us."
Boyle is going to the University of New Brunswick next year where he will study Business.
- Ryan Hunter
"I loved playing with this team," said Hunter. "It was a fun year. It's still a fun year."
Hunter said he wasn't playing minor hockey anymore but decided to get back into the game when ARHS started a team.
"Representing the school was fun and the school appreciated it," said Hunter. "The fans support was great. I'm glad I was able to play for my last year of high school and it will be good for the people coming up.
Hunter is also going to the University of New Brunswick where he will study engineering.
- Michael Patterson
Patterson said high school hockey is, "something new and exciting and is exciting for the whole school. We had a good turnout for a lot of games."
Asked how playing high school hockey compares to playing high school hockey, Patterson said, "it's a faster pace and a higher level, and you get bigger crowds."
Patterson said he hopes to attend university.
- Mitchell Maltby
Maltby says playing high school hockey was fun and he loved the crowds.
"The opening crowd on the first day was huge," he said. "It was the biggest crowd I ever played in front of. There were a lot of people. I was really surprised. Everybody was cheering. It was almost like a Ramblers game."
Maltby says high school hockey is more competitive than minor hockey.
"There's more rules and it's a lot tougher on suspensions and it's better hockey all around," he said. "And the coaching was great. It's the best coaching I ever had."
Maltby is going to attend university in Halifax.
"I'll balance my time between school and a junior (hockey) team," he said. "And I'd like to be able to come back and watch some (ARHS Vikings) games myself."
- Brett Gallant
"I loved playing high school hockey more than minor hockey," said Gallant. "There were bigger crowds and more excitement, and it's better hockey. It's a higher caliber."
He also said the fan support was great.
"It made it a lot more exciting," said Gallant
Gallant is going to take the lineman course at NSCC in Springhill.
- Kirk Hamilton
Hamilton said playing high school hockey was exciting.
"The crowds were big and they were loud," he said.
He said high school hockey is harder than minor hockey.
"There's more speed, passing and a more detailed game plan. You have to be better prepared," he said. "It was better representing something different than minor hockey, and everyone seems to like it."
Hamilton hoped to go to community college and take an electrician course.
- Matt Beal
Beal also liked the crowds.
"The school rallied behind us and they came out to watch us play and socialize and it got me fired up," said Beal.
Beal said the high school hockey requires more skill than midget hockey but midget hockey was tougher.
"There's more hitting and stuff."
Beal said high school hockey is fun.
"I hope the kids coming up will play high school hockey," he said.
Beal hopes to go the NSCC in Springhill where he'll take the electrician course.
"I'll try out for Junior B (hockey), but if I don't make it I'll try out for Junior C," he said.
Beal thanked the coaches for their dedication.
"They got up early every Tuesday and Thursday for our practices," said Beal.
Vikings head coach Wayne MacKenzie played hockey for ARHS in 1983 and 1984, and said coaching the modern version of the team was ‘fun.'
"There's been a few bumps in the road but a lot of good things have come out of it."
The Vikings host the Northumberland Nighthawks in the first round of the playoffs beginning Friday night at Amherst Stadium.
The Game starts at 8:15 p.m.
"The boys worked hard all year to get to where we're at," said MacKenzie. "There were a lot of early morning practices, so it would be nice if the hard work paid off for the kids."
He says this year was a building year, and to earn a birth in the provincial championships would help build momentum for next year.
"It builds memories too," said MacKenzie. "I have a lot of good memories from high school hockey and I want these guys to have good memories too.
"When you play for your school there's a lot of pride."