Nick Hoster and Zach Schlener wear maroon jerseys.

But the Lehighton seniors don't play for the Indians.

Since their school doesn't have a team in the Lehigh Valley Scholastic Hockey League, the two ice hockey players are forced to join another squad in order to compete in the sport they love.

Fortunately for Whitehall, it is that school.

Hoster, the team's starting goalie, and Schlener, the Zephyrs' second-leading scorer, have been key members of a squad that is in first place in the non-pure division with a 9-1-1 record.

"We're hoping this is our year to win the championship," said Hoster. "We have six seniors on the team so hopefully we can do it."

Hoster's teammates were once strangers. But since Whitehall drafted him a few years ago, he's been accepted as one of their own.

"There is a tryout for all the kids (about 30) in the league whose school doesn't have a team," said Hoster, who was born in Philadelphia and moved to Lehighton from Palmerton while he was in fourth grade. "We go into a draft and then teams draft us.

"At first it was kind of tough being with the other kids but now I fit right in with them. It was tough on them because I'm a goalie coming on to their team. I had to gain their respect. Once I did that, they treated me like one of the guys."

Hoster has earned respect not only on his team, but also throughout the league. He currently has a 13-3-1 record, a 3.41 goals against average, and a save percentage of .866.

"Whitehall really wanted Nick," said Schlener, who lived in Whitehall and played for the team before moving to Lehighton six years ago. "The coach pushed for him to play on the team."

Schlener was able to avoid the draft because of his history with the team. For the season, he has scored 24 points (11 goals and 13 assists) in 15 games.

Not many at their school know of their achievements. But then again, not many in their school know about hockey.

"When I was in eighth grade we kind of organized something," said Hoster. "A bunch of our friends, maybe 15 guys, would go out on a regular basis. They loved it. They liked to play street hockey but not ice hockey.

"Around here it doesn't get noticed as much as it should. Here it's football and field hockey. Field hockey's a big deal but not ice hockey."

"There's probably four kids in school that watch hockey," added Schlener sarcastically. "Many don't know about it and very few understand it. It's too complicated for most people."

Another reason many don't commit to ice hockey is the expense that goes along with it.

Between the high cost of equipment and the price for ice time, some just can't afford it.

"There are fund raisers but that doesn't even cover half of the expenses," said Schlener. "We have to buy our equipment. I just spent $600 on skates last year. If we break a stick it's $200. His (Hoster's) pads are $800."

"It's worth it though," said Hoster. "We've liked hockey our whole lives."

While Hoster has always liked hockey, he hasn't always been a goalie.

"I started out playing street hockey with my friends and my dad. My dad bought me goalie equipment because he wanted to take shots on me. He wanted to shoot them as fast as he could and as hard as he could. I barely had any padding and it hurt, but that's how I started playing goalie.

"I stopped playing hockey to play football, but then I missed playing hockey. I got more goalie stuff and played goalie on the ice. Now I love being the goalie. I wouldn't say I like being in the spotlight but I like the pressure. Like my dad says, you're either the hero or the zero."

Schlener enjoys other aspects of the game.

"I like scoring goals and hitting people," said Schlener. "There's enjoyment in doing both of those."

The two will play their final regular season game on Monday against one of their rivals, Northampton, before the playoffs begin later in March.

Trevor Lapp, a Northern Lehigh High School student, is also a member of the Whitehall squad while Pleasant Valley has joined with Palisades to form one of the non-pure teams.

To follow the teams and the local players, the LVSHL's website is www.lvshl.org [2]