SHERIDAN — Blake and McCaffrey Billings have played hockey around the Rocky Mountain region in search of earning a spot on a college team.
The brothers have played AAA hockey in Colorado, spent a season in the Wyoming Amateur Hockey League playing for Sheridan and most recently joined the new North American Tier III Hockey League franchise located in Sheridan — The Sheridan Hawks.
Blake and McCaffrey have played 33 games with the Hawks and are catching the attention of teams outside of the NA3HL.
Before the franchise was created, Blake Billings said he was looking at possibly returning to the AAA level. Once the team was announced, Blake Billings and Sheridan Hawks head coach Andy Scheib met.
Following the meeting, Billings said he knew staying Sheridan would be the right fit for him and he has not regretted the decision.
Joining the Hawks helped open doors for the brothers. Scheib has connections with coaches in the North American Hockey League and college teams.
Blake and McCaffrey have most recently been practicing in Aberdeen, South Dakota, with NAHL affiliate the Aberdeen Wings.
Blake Billings said Scheib’s connections prevent the brothers from having to build the relations on their own.
When the brothers joined the Hawks, they were playing in a junior hockey league for the first time. Players are older, the game is faster and more physical. They were also joining a team with league veterans and a core group making the move from Wisconsin to Wyoming.
Scheib said the lifestyle of junior hockey is different from AAA leagues. Teams practice everyday teams instead of a few times a week. It is a more intense brand of hockey.
McCaffrey Billings said the returning league veterans helped him adjust to the new league.
As one of the younger players on the team at 16 years old, Billings said he has seen himself mature playing with players that are 18-20 years old. Being in the NA3HL has helped Billings become more physical in his play and improve his vision on the ice.
Blake Billings is one of the Hawks’ top offensive threats this season, accounting for the second-most points on the team. Billings has 27 goals and 35 assists on the year.
Scheib said he did not know what to expect from the Billings brothers entering the season. Scheib and most of the players on the team are from Wisconsin and Minnesota; states that are serious about hockey.
Midwest hockey players do not see Wyoming as a big hockey state. Blake and McCaffrey proved there is talent in Wyoming and kept up with the veteran players.
McCaffrey Billings said the returning players and the new players had to feel each other out during the first few practices. Now the Hawks are a tight-knit team, Blake Billings said. The team does not have small fractions within it, they are completely united.
Blake and McCaffrey have also enjoyed the fact they live at home and can have the support of their friends and families at every game.
The Billings brothers and the Hawks are back at home Friday and Saturday night to face the Butte Cobras. Friday’s game starts at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday’s game starts at 7 p.m.