With a strong core back, East Ridge will look to play deep into February this season.

"Our goal is to get back to the section final and hopefully win it this time," Raptors coach Tom Kulenkamp said.

Two returning Raptors had 24 or more points last winter. Senior forwards Siobhan Claugherty and Brehna Walz had 27 and 24 points, respectively. Both distribute the puck well, coming off 17-assists seasons.

Claugherty has been out due to injury but will return soon. The Raptors have also been missing junior defender Addi Scribner, who had seven goals and 10 assists last winter. Those first-line absences have hindered the Raptors in a 2-2 start through Nov. 25.

East Ridge has seen a strong start from sophomore forward Fiona Claugherty, who had 17 points with nine goals and eight assists as a freshman. Claughtery has five goals and five assists in four games.

"She's a goal scorer," Kulenkamp said.

Junior forward Katie Flynn has also shown promise, coming off a 10-point season with five goals and five assists. Flynn already has three goals in the first month of the new season.

Offense has been a concern overall though with the Raptors averaging 3.3 goals per game. In addition, East Ridge has a void to fill in 26-goal scorer forward Grace Heiting transferring for her senior year. Heiting now plays for Gentry Academy, a private school in St. Paul.

"We've got to get more people scoring if we're going to be successful because good teams will shut down the scoring lines," Kulenkamp said.

On the other end of the ice, the Raptors have experienced defense and goaltending. In addition to Scribner, the Raptors have junior Anne Larsen and senior Mac Newman coming off solid seasons on defense. Larsen and Newman can also chip in some offense as Larsen had goals and four assists last year while Newman posted two goals and assists.

Senior goalie Lindsay Carlson takes the reins as the starter after being a backup the past two years behind Chloe Heiting, who left for Gentry Academy for her senior year. Carlson allowed 1.19 goals per game and had a 0.931 save percentage in six game appearances last winter.

"She's going to have to back-stop us," Kulenkamp said. "It's nice to have that experience."

This season, Carlson has an 0.865 save percentage and 3.58 goals allowed average in four games. An 8-0 loss to No. 2-ranked Class 2A power Blake Nov. 18 impacted her numbers.

"They've beaten everybody they've played pretty soundly," Kulenkamp said of Blake.

While East Ridge may not have to see Blake again, the Raptors do have an arduous Suburban East Conference schedule and Class 2A Section 3 tournament on the horizon. The SEC has No. 3 Hill-Murray, No. 5 Forest Lake, Stillwater, White Bear Lake and Mounds View, which already edged the Raptors once in overtime. Section 3 also has strong teams in Eagan, Apple Valley and Burnsville - any of which the Raptors could see in their mission to get back to the section final.