SHERIDAN — It’s hard to miss Blake and John Billings. The brothers simply can’t hide — not from opposing teams, fans or anyone inside the Whitney Rink at the M&M’s Center. The Billings duo stand tall, boast an abundance of skill, and sport plenty of hockey hair that streams out from their respective helmets. Blake and John Billings are a new to this year’s Sheridan Hawks’ team. And they’ve been a welcomed addition to a Hawks team positioned near the top of WAHL standings.
Blake, 17, and John, 15, came to Sheridan by way of Colorado. Both competed in tier one AAA hockey for a few years, when they were, well, shorter.
“We grew a lot when we lived in Colorado the first time,” Blake Billings said.
The Billings’ moved down to Colorado initially when their father received a job offer, but moved back to Sheridan shortly after.
The costs associated with playing for a traveling hockey team made it difficult for both brothers to stay in Colorado with host families, so Blake remained in Sheridan while John continued to lace up down south.
“I just decided to stay,” Blake Billings said. “I didn’t want to go and make him stay here.”
John continued to compete in Colorado, growing as a player and as an individual.
“It’s a lot more intense hockey,” John Billings said. “… And it was a lot different being away from the family. You have to be a lot more responsible for everything. … It was a real maturing time, just a different experience. It was fun.”
The experience consisted of practice three times a week and two games every weekend. The Colorado Rampage — the team Billings played for — scheduled about 60 games per season, in addition to playoff contests, that took him out of the state numerous times a year.
Blake Billings rejoined his brother in the Centennial State last year for one more brief stint of high-level hockey prior to both of them returning to Sheridan for the fall semester. The Billings brothers had no plans to hang up the skates, so they found their way to the Hawks, who were fresh off a Class B State title.
“You could tell that winning state gave them confidence,” John Billings said.
Sheridan returned a share of its team that captured its first state crown in more than a decade. That, plus the addition of the Billings brothers, made for what looked like, on paper, a formidable team.
The Hawks have lived up to the hype. Sheridan currently sits in a tie for second within the WAHL standings at 10-2.
The Billings brothers have contributed largely to that success. Blake Billings leads the team with 38 points, 21 goals and 17 assists. John Billings is right behind his brother with 24 points on 15 goals and nine assists.
While Blake and John don’t play on the same line shift, they’re out on the floor together quite often and have a built-in connection.
“We definitely have good chemistry out there,” Blake Billings said. “We know what we each other are going to do.”
The Hawks suffered a setback last weekend in their final games prior to the Christmas break. Sheridan dropped two at home to league-leading Jackson.
The Billings brothers were held in check as no Hawk found the back of the net in either game against the Moose. Sheridan head coach Kirk Viren indicated that the losses could prove difficult to get over, but he believes his team will bounce back.
“They could let it be deflating, but they are not going to do that,” Viren said.
Viren has long lauded the heart and closeness of this year’s club, referencing the state title as a means of cohesiveness. The Hawks want to take the next step this year and with the Billings brothers on board and contributing heavily and leading, Sheridan could chase another banner this season.