WHITEFISH — While most Montana high schools aren’t able to field an independent hockey team, those that truly love the sport come together to build teams compiled of players from multiple schools just like the Flathead Fusion.
"Love the boys, love the team, love the organization and it’s a good organization to be a part of," said head coach Brandon Cottrell.
Only in his second year as the teams coach Cottrell couldn’t be happier coaching the team.
"I’d say the coolest part is watching them grown honestly like grow into young men," said Cottrell. "I make them wear suits to every game and that creates a gentleman, respectful aspect out of it."
Having been a hockey player his whole life Cottrell knows what it takes and holds his players to a high standard.
"It gives them something to work for too, it’s like this is important," said Cottrell. "Because hockey should be fun, absolutely without a doubt, and we have a lot of fun, but you gotta know when to flip that switch to be ready to go and just having that intense level is pretty cool."
One senior who’s been on the team all four years knows no other sport compares to being on the ice.
"It’s nice to have you know people out there with you the whole time that have your back and you have their back," said Taggart Walker. "And just moving forward as a whole team instead of an individual."
And when it comes to the bonds that the team has formed Walker says it’s a day and night difference from when he started.
"We’ve come a long ways since day one, didn’t even know close to everybody’s name on the team, and here we are now, we’re all best friends and hoping for a place on the podium," said Walker with a smile.
Fellow teammate and captain Bridger Jones who comes from a big hockey family couldn’t be more grateful to play the sport he loves.
"In just a simple way but also such a meaningful way kind of a big group of guys coming together for one goal," said Jones. "And that goal is to just outwork the other team, and to be better than the other team, and most of that time that other team is just like who you were yesterday."
And when it comes to looking at the rest of the season ahead the team only has one thing on their mind
"I would definitely love to win the state title, and I think we totally can," said Jones with a big smile. "I think it’s within our grasp, the only team that’s gonna stop us is us."
The Fusion will be chasing their first ever state title when the tournament begins in early March.