The boys’ hockey season is underway and the non-conference season has finished up as these players and coaches look to the conference season with similar goals and ideas.
The 2018-19 season had memorable moments for each team, but none of them reached their goals of making a playoff run and heading to the state tournament. This year, the approach is on one game at a time and the results will come afterwards.
Woodbury, Park and East Ridge are looking to hit the brakes on the long-term goal of the season and each school hopes that will allow them to play its best hockey in the month of February and March.
The Royals are looking at an upcoming season with a handful of new faces, but that excites head coach Wes Bolin. Those new faces have made an impression on this team and it’s allowing the team to see new characteristics and skills to give them strengths this year.
“Our older players have helped these younger players understand the varsity level,” Bolin said. “These younger players are going to help this season and I’m looking forward to how they play once the first game comes.”
The Royals have 11 seniors and Quinn Krueger added that each senior is skilled in a different way. He’s hoping that each strength leads into a strong team this season.
“We only have one year left on this team and we want to make it count,” Krueger said. “I’m excited to see what this season has in store.”
Along with a strong offensive core, the Royals have two goalies that can make an impact on the season. Josh Davis is the returning goalie from last season and had a strong finish for the Royals last year. Austin Carlson is also another name at goalie and Bolin has been happy with his production early on.
The Royals are currently sitting at 0-2-1 and will start their conference season with three straight road games in a matter of a week.
The three characteristics of this Park boys' hockey team were described by a couple of the seniors hockey players and they included: gritty, physical and tough.
"We are going to play tough throughout the entire game and we're going to be physical on both sides of the ice," said senior Carter Newpower. "Our team is full of gritty players that won't back down from a challenge whether it's in practice or in a game."
Head coach Jay Moser said these Park players have a lot of heart and it's shown anytime they step on the ice and that's what he likes most about this 2019-20 team. He knows that the skills are going to develop this season and he's excited to see what February looks like for this team.
This team will have some senior leadership from players like Newpower and Brandon Greeder, but they will also have some young talent that will need to step up during the season.
"Our younger players have been working really hard at practice and asking a lot of questions about the varsity level," Greeder said. "We want them to feel comfortable on this level because they will be needed throughout this season to make some big plays."
The Wolfpack will have a new goalie in front of the net as Conner Nelson takes over the starting position. He had a little bit of time under net last year with two games played, but he'll need to step up as the leader for Park's defensive side.
Park has only played one game this season and lost at Bloomington Jefferson during one of its non-conference games, but the Wolfpack will be starting the conference season up this upcoming week.
"It's been fun working with this team early on this season," Moser said. "I'm just looking forward to continuing to get better each day, so we can be playing our best hockey at the end of the season."
The Raptors are taking the 2019-20 season day-by-day and making daily goals instead of season goals. The players and coaches learned a lot from last season and they don't want to put too much on themselves to achieve throughout the season.
"We had a lot of big expectations last season and weren't able to achieve as many goals as we wanted," said Tanner Johnson. "We learned a lot from last season and now we're taking it one day at a time."
This season has many familiar faces as the team holds 12 seniors and all of them are determined to make an impact not only on this team, but the future of the program. They want to teach the younger players about the history of this program and the expectations for each winter season.
The captains described this team as a fast group with a big defensive core. The Raptors focused on speed and agility this off season to become faster on the ice and have the ability to score on fast breaks easier than last season.
"Our younger players have done a great job with showing off their speed early this season," said Marco Troje. "Our offense will be fast, strong and skilled, which is what we want heading into this year."
On the defensive end, the Raptors have a tall and strong core of players to stop opponents from scoring. Their defensive core consists of players who are 6-foot-3 or taller and are physical throughout the entire game.
Head coach Dustin Vogelgesang said he's been impressed with the interactions between the older and younger players early this season and he knows this team chemistry will be strong all winter long.
"We have a lot of depth on this team, which will especially help in the later months of the season," Vogelgesang said. "I'm excited to see what this team can do this year."
East Ridge has already played three games and is 1-2 to start the season. The Raptors will continue playing their conference games this upcoming week.