Alpena High School goaltender Jesse Boilore remembers the thrill he felt when he joined the Wildcats as a freshman.
"It was just such a great honor to be on the varsity team as a freshman. Not a lot of people can say they made varsity as a freshman, but I've really been honored to have been picked throughout my high school career," Boilore said. "It's crazy how time flies and tomorrow is crazy to think about."
Now four years later, Boilore's high school career is coming to an end and he and 10 other Alpena seniors will take part in their final home game tonight at Northern Lights Arena during Senior Night when Alpena hosts Gaylord at 7 p.m.
Nearly a dozen Alpena High School seniors on the varsity hockey team will play their final home game tonight when Alpena hosts Gaylord at 7 p.m. at Northern Lights Arena. Pictured left to right are: back: Jesse Boilore, Evan Hamp, Karsten Alexander, Shane Dawson, Cole Cosbitt, Brandon Ciupka and Jay Dutcher; front: Reed Hamp, Jared Plume, Cade MacArthur and Tait Froggett.
Along with Boilore, Alpena's other seniors are Evan Hamp, Cade MacArthur, Jay Dutcher, Cole Cosbitt, Jared Plume, Shane Dawson, Brandon Ciupka, Reed Hamp, Tait Froggett and Karsten Alexander.
"The seniors are the leaders on the team typically. They're nice group of kids both on and off the ice," Alpena coach Pete Doubek said. "They're just a great group of kids to be around."
Putting on the Green and White uniform is considered a privilege by many a youth hockey player in Alpena and this year's group of seniors is no different. Having such a large group of seniors has provided a good leadership base this season for a team with a fair amount of youth and they've proven themselves to be leaders on both ends of the ice.
"I've loved it, it's been a lot of fun. Getting down to the last few games makes you realize more that this it. You're never going to have anything like this again in your life, so we're just trying to enjoy the end of it, finish strong and win."
- Alpena senior Cade MacArthur
Plume is currently the team's points leader with 26. but Reed Hamp and Cosbitt are near the top of the list as well with 12 points each. Plume leads the team in goals with 14, but MacArthur and Cosbitt are among several upperclassmen with six goals each.
"It feels good. It's sad that it's coming to an end, but I'm excited. It's been an honor to put on the Alpena jersey for a couple years and it's sad to see it come to an end," Cosbitt said.
The Wildcats (13-10-1) have lost their last two games, but hosting the Blue Devils could be just what they need with the regular season drawing to a close. Alpena blanked Gaylord 8-0 less than two weeks ago and six different players lit the lamp for the Wildcats in that game.
Gaylord is playing with only 10 skaters on the roster this season and Doubek said the key in games like this is striking a balance between staying competitive and not getting too cocky.
"I've been through seasons like that and that's a tough place to be. We should do fine against them. You don't want to overlook a team, but you don't want to embarrass them either," Doubek said.
Despite what could be a big offensive night, one thing the Wildcats will need to work on is staying out of the penalty box. Alpena's last two games have seen the Wildcats' efforts marred by penalties and Doubek said the onus at this point is on the players to determine how they want their season to end.
Whatever happens tonight, Alpena's seniors are doing everything they can to soak in their final games wearing the Alpena jersey. Alpena's last regular season game is Friday at Bay City Central and the Wildcats will begin playoff action next week.
"I've loved it, it's been a lot of fun. Getting down to the last few games makes you realize more that this it," MacArthur said. "You're never going to have anything like this again in your life, so we're just trying to enjoy the end of it, finish strong and win."
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.