MANCHESTER — The excitement at Mount St. Mary Academy was approaching Stanley Cup playoff levels on Wednesday morning.
Fifth- and sixth-graders got a one-hour break from class for some floor hockey, compliments of the Boston Bruins and NESN during a four-day swing through four New England states to fire up fans for the start of the new season.
"This is as much fun as we've had," said NESN broadcaster Jack Edwards, a University of New Hampshire graduate who provided his signature play-by-play throughout the event.
NESN commentator Andy Brickley, a former Bruin who was an All-American at UNH, stood out among the packs of kids scurrying around the floor after the orange ball during a scrimmage.
Brickley admitted he was a little wary of the travel schedule for appearances in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine before wrapping up in New Hampshire on Thursday. But fans still recovering from the Bruins' loss to Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals were clearly ready for the season to begin even after the briefest of offseasons.
"We found out right away it was going to be good. It was going to be fun because of the interaction that we've had," Brickley said. "Everybody's a Bruins fan it seems like. It just screams as to how popular the Bruins are right now."
Jamie Erdahl, who joins NESN's Bruins lineup this season as the new rink-side reporter, also grabbed a stick and played in the scrimmage as did "Blades," the team mascot who was a hit while running around with the children.
"Definitely liked Blades," said sixth-grader Katrina Junod. "It was really fun."
Mike Dargin, manager of youth hockey development for the Bruins, ran the kids through a few stickhandling drills — with Edwards calling all the action — before the group split into two teams.
Dargin said the Bruins run clinics throughout New England for a wide range of skill levels. He said the club is always interested in getting kids into hockey and floor hockey doesn't require much more than a stick and the energy to run around.
The Bruins' youth program provided the equipment on Thursday and after the scrimmage Dargin told the school he'd be leaving behind the sticks and goalie equipment so floor hockey could become a regular activity during physical education.
After the hockey was over, the two teams lined up to exchange high-fives before the students posed for a group photo with their new friends.
"It was definitely cool," sixth-grader Sofia Pajakowski said.