For the first time in almost a year, Bronco hockey hit the ice of Bronco Arena to prepare for their new season.

Gov. Tim Walz’s restrictions on high school sports were lifted Monday, allowing teams across Borderland, including boys’ and girls’ hockey, to begin practicing for a shortened 2021 season.

The Bronco boys will be looking to approve on a 13-12-1 record from last year, which saw the Falls go 1-1 in the biannual Border Battle with Fort Frances.

The Broncos also went on a five-game winning streak early on in the 2019-20 season.

Led by first-year head coach Chad Baldwin, senior Tucker Hell said it felt great to get back onto the ice.

“It’s an amazing feeling. It’s great to be back and we’re looking forward to playing games again,” he said.

Minding the net for the Broncos will be senior Mitchell Nemec, who said he missed his teammates the most during lockdown.

“I missed seeing everyone in the locker room, so it was great to see them again,” he said. “I also miss not having to wear a mask when I play.”

This sentiment was echoed by fellow senior Brady Wicklund, who said it was great being on the ice with his team again.

“I really missed hanging out with the boys and being around them every day,” he said. “It feels fantastic to see everyone again and it gets me pumped for our first game.”

The Bronco girls are coming off a winless 2019-20 campaign under third year head coach Michele McDonald.

However, the Broncos improved over the course of the season, capping it off with a strong performance against the top-seeded Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Lumberjacks in the playoffs.

One of the leaders on this year’s Bronco squad is senior Emma Erickson, who said she is ready to finally hit the ice again.

“It’s an amazing feeling, playing again after such a long time off,” she said.

Erickson also said she was happy to see all of her teammates again.

“Being with the girls is my favorite part about all of this,” she said. “We’re just all ready to compete again.”

The Bronco girls’ first game will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 15 when they host the North Shore Storm, while the boys’ first game will be at 3 p.m. Jan. 16 when they host the Kittson Central Bearcats.