The echoes of slapshots and fans cheering in the stands has come back to the state of Minnesota as the girls' hockey teams prepare for another high school season.

Woodbury and East Ridge are only a couple teams in the state preparing for the hockey season, but both teams have similar goals with making this season a special year for each of its players.

"With each practice, there's always improvement from each player," said Annika Johnson. "It's fun to see each player working on different skills and seeing it incorporate with one another in a game."

The Woodbury Area Royals are a co-op team filled with players from Woodbury High School as well as New Life Academy, St. Croix Prep, Nova Classical, Twin Cities Academy and St. Croix Lutheran. The majority of players on the team are from Woodbury High School, but the friendships that are formed are unforgettable.

The Royals finished the 2017-18 season with a 4-21 record and were in last place in the conference standings last year. One of the bigger moments the players are looking forward to is being one of the schools to participate in Hockey Day Minnesota at the end of January.

Woodbury Area was one of two girls high school hockey programs to be selected for this event that takes place in Bemidji, and recognizes the different levels of hockey in the state of Minnesota.

"We are really excited to be a part of that event and that weekend," Decker said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and I know we'll hold onto those memories for the rest of our lives."

The Royals look to improve from last season, but the players understand the competition level in the Suburban East Conference.

"It's never an easy schedule playing in this conference," Johnson said. "The tough opponents will only get us ready for Hockey Day Minnesota and section play at the end of the season."

East Ridge is also part of the SEC, but the team is experiencing many new things this season. The biggest addition to the program is a new head coach with Kim McClintick stepping into the role this season.

The girls love the energy and atmosphere McClintick brings to the rink and McClintick loves being around the girls at practice because she's learning so much about the roster.

"It's been so much fun just talking to the girls and understanding what kind of team they want this season," McClintick said. "Every player is excited to get the skates back on and prepare for a fun upcoming season."

The Raptors finished the 2017-18 season with a record of 12-13 and were in the middle of the conference standings. East Ridge made it through its first round game in section play as the Raptors beat Burnsville, but lost in the second round to Eagan to end their season.

Now, the focus is on the offseason and how hard the girls worked to prepare themselves for the upcoming season.

Many of the players competed on club teams during the offseason to keep their skills sharp and their minds focused on the goals ahead in the 2018-19 season.

To start this season, the Raptors are 2-0 with wins against Apple Valley and Hastings.

"We have a lot of seniors coming in this season," said Addi Scribner. "It'll be a fun season."

With 10 seniors on the team, McClintick is looking for a lot of leadership both on and off the ice. Whether it's in the classroom or teaching skills at practice, McClintick wants these players to understand the full spectrum of being a student-athlete.

There's a bigger idea of success in McClintick's mind as she looks at success over the next five to 10 years of a player's life, not just the next few months of a season.

"These girls will graduate high school and will go to college," McClintick said. "They will have careers in the future and possibly have families. I look at success in that aspect and not just hockey."

Katie Flynn is excited to have all of the seniors on the team because she hopes they can pass down the traditions and the standards of East Ridge girls hockey to future players.

"This season will be a lot of fun with great memories throughout the months," Flynn said. "I just can't wait to get started."