So far, things look very good for the Hastings girls hockey team. The Raiders had an unbeaten record heading into this week at 5-0-1, including Suburban East Conference wins over Stillwater and Woodbury.
"We think that we have the scoring to compete with any team in our conference or section," coach Jeff Corkish said. "One of our most important goals is to improve on the many little areas of the game that are required for quality team defense. We are working hard to improve our defensive zone play and the support of the puck when it goes from deep in the zone then up to the blue line."
Hastings started the season with a 5-4 win over Eastview in overtime, using four third-period goals to tie the game and send it into the extra session. Hastings then beat Farmington and tied Shakopee.
Hastings beat Burnsville, Stillwater and Woodbury to improve to 5-0-1.
Captains this year are Jackie Stark, Danielle Duffy, Kit Ruedy and Natalie Simons.
They are all forwards.
Ruedy and Simons are both centers. Stark plays right wing and Duffy left wing.
Stark and Duffy are seniors. Ruedy and Simons are juniors.
Hastings has just three seniors on the team this year. They are Stark, Duffy and Hailey Lundquist. Lundquist plays defense.
Hastings has five juniors on the roster. They are Sami Claussen, Mikaela Minnaert, Mal McDowell, Simons and Ruedy.
There are three sophomores in Erin Moes, Anna Foster and Brooke Weber.
Five freshmen are in the mix, too. They are Kiki Radke, Elle Cooper, Anna Williams, Claire Williams and Madi True.
Weber and True are the team's goalies.
"Every kid who is coming back is key for us," Corkish said. "Being the smallest school in our conference requires us to have everyone ready to play their role. If we go down with an injury to one player we are going to feel it. As time goes on this season and we develop more of our young kids, our depth will improve."
Keys and goals
Corkish broke down some of the significant improvements that his team is making.
"Our centers and defense are getting better at recognizing how to keep the gap tight on the opponent in this situation and it is going to make a world of difference for us when trying to get the puck out of the zone," he said. "When this improves we will see improvement in our neutral zone attack and gaining turnovers near the red line ultimately allowing us to gain their offensive zone off dump ins and rushes. The first part of this success has been our wings learning when to cover their defenseman at the blue line and when to support down low when our centers and defensemen need support in their one- on-one battles. This takes time to learn because the wings need to see the situations over and over again so they are reacting and not thinking and that is why we are doing a lot of wing work in practice right now."
Hastings aims to get to the state tournament, but a lot of things will have to happen along the way if that is to occur.
"The end goal is to get to the state tourney but we have many short term goals like the many I have mentioned above that we need to accomplish before the end goal can be attained," he said. "This will take every minute of every practice as well as our individual skill level to improve throughout the season and this is being accomplished with daily stickhandling and strength training. A good majority of our girls are still shooting pucks and stick handling at home, not waiting for the summer. They are trying to get a jump up on any competition for their own spots as well as get better than the other individuals on the other teams we will be playing against. We are coaching some very dedicated and hard working kids right now, so getting to state is a definite possibility this year."
Corkish expects Mounds View, Stillwater and Roseville to be among the top teams in the Suburban East Conference again this year.
"They are your usual suspects, but you have to wait to see who Cretin brought in before you can decide how good they are," Corkish said. "Right now they look to be pretty good. I think we will contend in the conference if we stay healthy."