Generals earn respect over long ice hockey season

It was a tough season for the high school division Miles City Generals ice hockey team. In 20 regular-season games, they struggled to a 0-19-1 record.

“This season was full of learning experiences and opportunities,” said coach Wacy Arndt. “The team showed a lot of character, persevering through the duration of the season and paying their dues. Eventually it paid off.”

They finished the season with 18 players and two goalies, having lost Karlee Kinney and Joe Skaggs to concussions and Dominick Merwin to a hamstring/groin injury.

However, they haven’t been the easiest team to beat. Senior goalie Nick Thompson made 1,023 saves over the course of the season. He led the league by more than 400 saves, with the runner-up recording 621 stops.

“It [was] gut-check time,” Arndt said when the Generals headed into the postseason. “Time for them to show up, and show everyone that they did learn and they did grow and they did earn this. They absolutely did.”

The Generals went into the state tournament the weekend of March 3-5 with nothing to lose. They had already tied the Glasgow Ice Dawgs, and were tied with them 2-2 going into the third period, but three more goals sealed the 5-2 win and the third place trophy.

“[This] is a reflection of the season,” Arndt said, “and how we carried ourselves all season, how we bonded as a team, our love and appreciation for the game, and the overall ability of the kids to show up every day with their work boots on and ready to put the work in.” 

The tournament win was bittersweet for Thompson, Anthony Smith, and Jesse James: as seniors, it was their last time donning the turquoise and black jerseys of the Generals, but their contributions were invaluable to the team this year.

“Individually they each possess a lot of character,” Arndt said about the senior trio. “Together they are role models and excellent examples for the young core of players we have coming up. Not just on our team but for the young Generals who dream of being in their spot.”

Smith sent in four goals and logged five assists, James recorded three goals and three assists, and Thompson finished the regular season in net with an 0-14-1 record and 804 regular-season saves.

From the cache of players returning next season, Seth Hamilton led all Generals with 20 points on the season, stemming from 18 goals and 2 assists. Hunter Braden scored three times during the season, and Alvin Hunziker added four assists. Goalie Ben Barlog was 0-5-0 in 14 games. He saved 188 shots and allowed 67 goals.

Arndt summed up his coaching year with wisdom from another generation. “My [father] had a saying: ‘blood, sweat, and respect. The first two you give. The last one you earn.’ This team has my respect.”

The Generals took the team-coaching approach, utilizing Arndt, Kyle Hoff, Duncan Hedges, Gary Hamilton, and Todd Armstrong. Jamie Thompson served as team manager.