Jason Voorhees won’t be the only one wearing a hockey mask this Friday the 13th.
The Northeastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Hockey League is set to drop the puck on the 2015-16 season Friday. Three games are slated to be played, including one at Mohegan Sun Arena that will see last season’s first and second-place team in the standings faceoff.
After the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins finish up their game against Hershey, the Zamboni will resurface the ice and get it ready for a much younger set of players.
High school showcase games will be played most Friday nights after Penguins’ home games and although there’s only one in the month of November, the month of December will have three. These special games are something that will surely get the public, as well as other kids, excited about the sport.
“These games are going to help grow the sport,” said Stephen Zirnheld, NEPASHL Treasurer. “I think that kids that are already attending the Penguins game will stay afterwards to watch the high school game, getting them interested in the sport. It will get us more coverage in the newspapers and when the kids read it and see the pictures they will want to get involved.”
The NEPASHL has been growing over the past few years, however one thing that’s arisen this year that could stunt that growth is limited ice time for both practices and games. With one of the local rinks closing down a sheet of ice, the schedule has had to become more compressed and both colleges and high schools, as well as in-house and adult leagues, have been jockeying for valuable time on the ice.
Recently, Mohegan Sun Arena has made its ice available for practices and some games, which has alleviated some of the pressure, but has caused the league to move which nights it plays its games from Fridays to Mondays. How playing on a school night is going to affect players has still yet to be determined, but so far the kids are enjoying their time on the Wilkes-Barre Township sheet of ice.
“I think the kids really like to practice and play at the arena,” Zirnheld said. “It is a little bit more costly there and we pay more there than at the other local rinks, but the kids are having a lot of fun.”
Monday nights will become the new main evening for high school hockey. Four games will be played, between the Toyota Sportsplex in Wilkes-Barre and the Revolution Ice Centre in Pittston and Zirnheld says that although it’s a change, it won’t be that much different for the student athletes.
“The biggest day of the week for us used to be Friday,” he said. “Monday is a school night so there will be some impact on homework. Hopefully not much, but I know we played some Monday games last year and it seemed to work out OK. The latest games would be at 8:15 p.m.”
Despite both the positive and negative changes that are affecting the NEPASHL for this upcoming season. This Friday the 13th there will be some slashing, but not to worry, it’s the kind that would only earn a player two minutes in the penalty box.
Reach Russell Hryvnak at 570-991-6401 or on Twitter @TLRussHryvnak