Raiders beat Bears again, are now fourth in SEC
The postseason begins tonight (Thursday) for the Hastings boys hockey team. Hastings will play at Highland Ice Arena in the first round of the section tournament against a familiar opponent: Cretin-Derham Hall.
C-DH is the section's No. 3 seeded team. Hastings is the No. 6 seed.
The winner will play at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at the State Fair Coliseum. The championship game is set for 7 p.m. March 1 at the Coliseum.
Eagan is the section's top seed and they are the state's No. 3 ranked team. Apple Valley is seeded No. 2.
Hastings and Cretin have played against each other twice already this season during Suburban East Conference play. In their first meeting on Jan. 5, Hastings held a 3-1 lead in the third period before C-DH came back to tie it. The game ended in a 3-3 tie.
In the second meeting on Feb. 4, C-DH won, 7-1.
"That was the only game this year we didn't show up and play, from the drop of the puck to the end of the game," coach Russ Welch said. "We got outworked. That is going to be our biggest concern - not getting outworked."
After Eagan, the section is relatively equal, Welch said.
"If you took Eagan out of there, you could pick five or six teams, maybe seven, to win the section," he said. "Eagan is obviously the top team, but I think everybody else is pretty equal."
Hastings earned a big win over the eventual Suburban East Conference champions, White Bear Lake, on Thursday, 4-3 in overtime.
Hastings took a 2-0 lead in the first period. Tate Sykes scored on a hard wrist shot at 2:54 of the first period, assisted by Jacob Cooper and Matt Koch.
At 15:36, Nate Flynn scored, assisted by Mark Huneke.
In the second period, White Bear Lake pulled within a goal at 2-1 after scoring at 2:14.
Hastings pushed the lead to 3-1 at 11:08 when Andrew Bussey scored, assisted by Sykes and Koch.
In the third period, WBL scored goals at 14:43 and 15:20 to tie the game.
"In the third period, White Bear came out with some renewed energy," Welch said. "They really took it to us in the third period. They had some chances to win it, but Lenny Weiss was Johnny on the spot. Lenny played extremely well. He made some great saves. He kept us from losing the game."
In overtime, Hastings got the game winner from Flynn at 7:33. Flynn was in the corner and attempted to make a pass across the crease. The puck hit a defender's skate and went into the net."
Hastings swept White Bear Lake this year, the first time the Raiders have been able to do that in more than a decade, Welch said.
The win catapulted Hastings from seventh in the SEC to fourth.
Hastings finished league play with a 9-8-1 record, tying Mounds View for the No. 4 spot. White Bear Lake won the title with a 13-4-1 record. Roseville was second at 11-6-1 and Stillwater was third at 10-6-2.
Hastings has an overall record of 12-11-2, a nice turnaround from a year ago.
"We knew we needed to win more of those close games," Welch said. "We won more of them this year. The goaltending this year has been better. That's a big reason why. Our team defense has been better in our zone, too. Those two improvements have made the difference."
Since Dec. 28, Hastings has gone 9-5-2. One of those losses came to the state's No. 1 ranked team from Duluth East.