Win No. 1 was nearly a month in the making for the East Ridge boys hockey team.
Victories Nos. 2 and 3 did not take nearly so long.
The East Ridge boys hockey team had the most successful stretch of its inaugural season over the holiday break as the Raptors won three of the four games they took part in while school was out.
"We had a tremendously successful break in going 3-1," coach Doug Long said.
Three days after players opened their Christmas presents, the team earned its biggest gift yet in a 3-2 win versus St. Paul Como Park in the opening round of the Forest Lake Tournament on Monday, Dec. 28.
"It was an interesting response from the players," Long said. "They weren't all that excited."
The Raptors scored two first period goals from Michael Mader -- who would be named to the All-Tournament Team -- and Alex Idso to take a 2-0 lead into the initial intermission before the Cougars matched their opponents with a pair of second period tallies to even the count at 2-all heading into the third frame.
Mader made sure the third period was indeed the final stanza with a goal at 5:03 to put ERHS ahead to stay as the Raptors improved to 1-6 on the season.
East Ridge put 50 shots on Como goaltender Chris Zeller to secure the one-goal victory as Raptors netminder Dillon Cooper made 15 saves for his first varsity triumph.
"We didn't play all that great," Long said. "Kind of figured with that many shots we would have won by more."
Not that the coach was taking anything away from his freshman goalie, however.
"Dillon got his name in the East Ridge record book as the goalie to earn the Raptors' very first victory," he said.
The first-win enthusiasm didn't last long, however, as East Ridge was throttled, 6-1, by Chisago Lakes in the tournament semifinal.
"Our biggest goal is still consistency," Long said. "We need to work to our greatest potential every day."
Forward Zach Edwards lone tally for the Raptors came after the Wildcats had already posted three goals in what became a five-goal rout.
"It was not a very good effort on our part," Long said.
The Raptors' slump lasted just one game, however, as Long's troops bounced back for arguably the biggest victory in the fledgling program's history in the tournament final against the host Rangers.
Forward Jack Leiviska's goal with four seconds remaining in regulation climaxed a Raptor rally from a 3-0 deficit in a 4-3 East Ridge win to clinch third-place honors.
"We were all real excited about that win," Long said. "Forest Lake is a pretty solid team and to come back the way we did in the final minutes was fantastic."
After spotting the hosts a three-score head start in the first period, East Ridge held Forest Lake scoreless for the final two frames, then executing the massive comeback in the final 10 minutes of play.
Forward Easton Halbert got the visitors on the board with a goal at 7:14 of the final period.
Leiviska struck fear into the Rangers hearts with East Ridge's second goal on the power play at 12:38.
Two Forest Lake penalties at 13:57 and 14:58, respectively, gave the Raptors a two-man advantage and the squad took full advantage.
Defenseman Emilio Rodriguez drew East Ridge even with a power play goal at 15:32 before Leiviska's deciding tally came with the man advantage at 16:56 to give the Raptors a sudden lead that led to victory just seconds later.
East Ridge goaltender Andrew McDonough made 44 saves, keeping the Rangers out of his net for the final 35-plus minutes for the win.
"To win that game and take third place on their rink in their tournament was pretty thrilling," Long said.
East Ridge rode its wave of momentum into the new year with a 5-3 victory at Shakopee on Saturday, Jan. 2.
Rodriguez scored twice in the win, with Idso, Mader and Leiviska also lighting the lamp as McDonough made 16 saves to secure the third triumph against seven losses for East Ridge.
Now, it's back to Suburban East Conference play for the Raptors, who begin back-to-back three-game weeks on Tuesday, Jan. 5 against White Bear Lake.
"The kids have raised the bar," Long said. "We don't want to go backwards."