In 2017, after an unbeaten regular season at 24-0, the Billings Bulls thought they had a trip to nationals in the bag. The only team standing in their way, the Missoula Bruins. Unfortunately for Billings, that one ended in a 3-0 loss.
"It was very humbling," said Bulls senior right wing Simon Minch. "I went into there thinking everything was entitled to us, but it wasn't."
A tough loss to swallow, the Bulls regrouped and came in focused for their 2018 season. The Bulls again entered state unbeaten, even securing a 3-0 win over rival Missoula in the semis, before finally putting those hard learned lessons to use with a 6-1 win over Bozeman for a trip to nationals.
"The last couple years we came in confident and kind of got let down," said Bulls senior center Brandon Dringman. "So I think it's nice that this year all the work paid off this year."
"It was really good beating some of the teams that we had close games with all season," said Bulls senior center Dillon Chirrick "We definitely came to the state championship ready to play, and beating Missoula 3-0 after they beat us last year, it really felt rewarding."
The Bulls' reward? A trip to Plymouth, Minnesota for a shot at the national title. And confidence doesn't seem to be an issue.
"I think we're going to go in there and we're going to win," said Minch. "We've got good speed, we've got good players, and we're going to do our best."
"I mean obviously we're going there to win," said Dringman. "I mean that's what we're always trying to do as a team. But we're still here to have fun, play hockey just one last time with the boys. But for sure we're going to win."
"We're very fast as a team, and not a lot of people can catch up to us," said Bulls senior defenseman Dawson Smith. "That'll be a big factor. We've got to make sure we're doing the little things right, and playing as a team."
The results through pool play were pretty promising. The Bulls took the top seed out of their pool, outscoring opponents 20-7 in the three game span. And that's all that stands in their way of a national championship: three games. And after coming up just one game shy of making it last year, this team knows the value of every game in March.