As East Ridge was heading to the HealthEast Sports Center on Thursday night, head coach Dustin Vogelgesang handed out the game plan sheets.
The players and coaches went through it, but at the bottom of the sheet there was one word that made no sense to the players.
The word said China.
After going through everything, Vogelgesang told the players that there are 1.6 billion people living in China and none of them care about this game. He was using this to ease the tension and stress of the night.
Well, it worked.
It was rivalry night at the HealthEast Sports Center as every parking spot was full and every seat in the arena was filled. Woodbury and East Ridge faced off in one of the toughest games of the season.
"Sometimes our players get too hyped before a game and it shows on the ice," Vogelgesang said. "I thought we went out and executed exactly what we wanted."
In the first period, Woodbury took an early lead as Jac Triemert found the back of the net. That gave the Royals a 1-0 lead and that's how the score remained heading into the second period.
During that break, the East Ridge players talked about fixing some of the little things as they prepared for a tough second period.
The Raptors stayed consistent in the second period and stopped Woodbury from scoring. On the other end, East Ridge was able to score a few goals to take the lead.
About five minutes into the period, Tyler Wendshau scored to tie the game at 1-1. Then, a couple minutes later, Tanner Johnson found the back of the net to give the Raptors their first lead of the night. About three minutes later, Wendshau scored his second goal of the night on a power play and East Ridge went into the third period with a 3-1 lead.
"We were finding the right people on offense in that second period," Wendshau said. "Our defense was great that period and that helped us capture the lead."
After each of the goals in the second period for East Ridge, the Raptors skated over to the large student section and crashed into the boards to celebrate before going over to the bench.
The atmosphere was loud and crazy and the players were feeding off of that throughout the entire night. The overall game was physical, but the players were happy to see some familiar faces.
"We have friends on Woodbury, so it was good to see them and talk to them after the game," Johnson said. "During the game, it's focused on winning, but it's fun to talk afterwards."
In the final period, Woodbury was on a power play and took full advantage of it with a goal of its own. Tyler Barry scored for the Royals to make it a 3-2 game.
That final period went back-and-forth between the two teams as both had opportunities to score, but the final horn went off and the Raptors skated fast to the student section to celebrate the victory.
In the locker room, Vogelgesang walked in and the players and coaches started singing the school song as loud as they could. After the song, there was some exchange between the coaches and players, but mostly it was smiles and hugs as they knew how big this game was for the community.
"We knew how important this game is to the high schools and the community," Wendshau said. "We're just glad to bring the win back to East Ridge High School and celebrate it with everyone at school."
As Johnson and Wendshau walked out of the locker room, Wendshau was wearing a money suit and it looked a little out of place. When asked about the suit, Johnson said it goes to the MVP of the game.
There was a smile and laugh between the two players and a high-five before being asked another question.
As for the night, Vogelgesang took away one big aspect to the hockey team for the future. He now knows that East Ridge can play hockey in any type of environment.
"This is what you expect from a rivalry game," Vogelgesang said. "Wes and the Woodbury team played well and we played well. It was a great win for this East Ridge program."
East Ridge 1, White Bear Lake 1 (OT)
It was a close game on Saturday night between White Bear Lake and East Ridge, but there wasn't a winner determined that night.
The Bears scored in the second period to take a 1-0 lead, but the Raptors came back and scored about 15 minutes into the final period.
The goal came from Jack McVey and tied the game at 1-1, but no team could score in the overtime period.
The tie puts East Ridge's record at 3-3-1 as the Raptors host another home game on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m. against Chanhassen.
Forest Lake 5, Woodbury 2
Forest Lake scored three goals in the first period and never looked back to defeat Woodbury with a 5-2 final score on Saturday night.
Woodbury kept fighting and scored two goals in the third period. Kevin O'Connor started the scoring for the Royals and Quinn Krueger finished the scoring, but it wasn't enough to beat Forest Lake.
After the road game on Saturday, the Royals are traveling back home on Thursday, Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. to take on Stillwater.