The last time the Dallastown ice hockey players suited up as their own team, the Wildcats were fighting Hershey for a Central Penn Interscholastic League Tier 1 title.
That was back in 2013.
A lot has changed since then.
The team was forced to merge with Central York first and then Susquehannock over the past three years, leaving the York area with just two local squads.
Those days, however, are in the past. Dallastown is back in the CPIHL this season with a club that it can call its own.
While no one, including coach Matthew Mitchell, is expecting the Wildcats to be in the Rothrock (Tier 3) Division championship race this season, the fact that the program is alive again is bringing smiles to all involved.
“If I can get all the kids in Dallastown, the middle school kids, we’ll be back to having a pure team,” Mitchell said after his team fell 6-3 to Penn Manor on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at the York City Ice Arena. “And that means we’ll be a Tier 1 (Bears Division) team again, which would be great.”
The Wildcats (0-2) are not quite there just yet. They have a few players from other schools in the York area to help fill out the roster, so they're playing in the Rothrock Division with local rivals Susquehannock and Central York.
While teams such as Penn Manor are filled with high-level players, the Wildcats and Mitchell are starting nearly from scratch. So instead of focusing on wins and losses, Mitchell has another goal in mind for this season.
“I push fun,” said Mitchell, who coached Dallastown’s team back in 2013. “It’s fun playing school hockey and playing with your classmates.”
One of the biggest hurdles for CPIHL teams is a lack of support from the districts that bear their names.
“Now the schools don’t really support it, which would be nice,” Mitchell said. “If they would support it in any way, even allowing us to recruit at school, that would be great.”
That said, Mitchell is hoping his team will grow and improve as the season moves on. Wednesday’s contest was the team’s second of the season and first home game.
Like Susquehannock, which had to fill several spots with the Dallastown kids moving to their own team, the Wildcats have some players who haven’t played in a while. But there are a handful of kids that Mitchell can lean on for leadership and minutes during key moments of the season.
Two of them are the Helmer brothers, Andrew and Timothy. Timothy, just a freshman, scored the game’s first goal Wednesday. While the younger Helmer is small in size, he plays the game with a lot of heart.
“Pound for pound he’s one of the toughest kids in this league,” said one of the Dallastown coaches in passing by Mitchell after the game.
“He’s a grinder,” Mitchell added. “He’s a great kid.”
Andrew Helmer scored a power-play goal late in the contest, while Tanner Haines scored the other Dallastown goal against the Comets.
Central York 11, MSM United 3: At Twin Ponds West, the Panthers cruised to the Rothrock Division win. Jacob Nagy (three goals, two assists), Gabriel Hue (three goals, one assist) and Carter McCormack (goal, two assists) powered the Central offense. The Panthers improved to 2-0.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.