HELENA — After an exciting 2021-22 season that took the Helena Bighorns all the way to the Fraser Cup semi finals, they're gearing up for the 2022-23 season, and they're ready to take on the expectations that come with it.
“I just think we're faster. I think with the youth we got I think we're gonna be able to, you know, build on what we had offensively last year. I think offensively we're gonna be right there again. That's the biggest thing I see,” Bighorns forward, TJ Norris, said.
Age is the most glaring change to this year’s roster as eight players from last season have moved on to college.
"It's pretty good to have the young group for the future of the Bighorns, that these guys are going to be around a lot longer. It'll be good,” forward Tyler Bloom said.
For Bloom, there's a few players he's looking forward to watch develop.
"A really young dude that I really like his Braden Cunningham. He's a cute little dude," he laughed. "But I think I'm really excited to see Gavyn Lund play. He's a big defenseman, that's going to be laying the body this year," the forward said.
In addition to their new, young players, the Biggies also have the addition of Coach Scott Cunningham who is focused on growing his players to get them to the next level.
"Having both Scott and Damon is awesome. Both those guys coached me when I was younger, it just brings a whole new level of coaching here when Scott's here. Our systems that we're running are a lot harder, but the boys are getting it now," Bloom said.
“Just adding new systems, making sure everything's as perfect as it can be, whether it's passing pucks, getting pucks right onto the net, like, just the little stuff is the most important thing. And that's the stuff that's going to move guys on to the next level,” Norris added.
Both the Bighorns and their fans are ready to get back into the Helena Ice Arena.
“It's honestly surreal to see how many people come to the games and stuff and honestly, last year, we didn't lose a game at home and I think that's definitely part of the fans, Bloom said.” “Having them support us is huge.”
The Bighorns start their season with three away games until they face off against the Bozeman Icedogs at home on September 9th.
“I think the fans are ready to get back to watching some hockey and I think having a couple road games that we have to play will just build that excitement even more,” Norris said.
With the excitement comes big expectations.
"I think the expectation is to go one step further than that one in the Fraser Cup. I mean, we built that expectation last year, the best thing to do is just build off of it," Norris said.