Wild ride ends at section finals
In order for the Hastings boys hockey team to win last week's section title game against the highly ranked Eagan Wildcats, everything was going to have to go right for Hastings. The Raiders would have to play their best game, get off to a fast start and get some luck.
It didn't take long to see that wasn't going to be the case. Eagan scored just more than a minute into the game, then added three more goals by the end of the first period.
"We needed everything to bounce our way from the beginning of the game until the end," coach Russ Welch said. "We needed all the bounces to go our way, and some luck to be on our side. It just wasn't there. They were a better team. There's no doubt about that."
Eagan ended up winning, 10-1.
The lone Hastings goal was scored by senior Nate Flynn.
For Hastings, the trip to the section tournament was the first in 11 years, Welch said. The team brought home the section's second-place trophy.
"That was a big accomplishment for our kids," Welch said. "We can't lose sight of that."
P.J. Piotrowski played in net for Hastings.
After Hastings fell behind 4-0 in the first period, Welch mixed a number of things up, hoping to get some more offense going. Hastings had a forward camped at center ice, hoping his teammates could clear the puck to him and get a breakaway going. That didn't help, but Welch said there wasn't much difference in losing 5-0 than there was in losing 10-1, and he wanted to roll the dice to see if Hastings could get something going.
Hastings finished the season with a 14-12-2 overall record.
Hastings will lose its three senior goalies to graduation. They are Connor Thomas, P.J. Piotrowski and Lenny Weiss. Senior forwards are Nate Flynn, Adam Fox and Tyler Mellick. Senior defensemen are Tate Sykes, Alex Neuman, Nick Baum and Eric McCarthy.
"That's a great group of seniors," Welch said. "They led by example. That's just a bunch of nice kids there. They're even better people than they are hockey players - that's a tribute to them and to their parents."
Flynn was the team's leading scorer, and losing that depth at forward and defense, not to mention the three goaltenders, is cause for concern for Welch. Still, he's optimistic about what the future holds for the Raiders.
"We have 12 forwards coming back with varsity experience," Welch said. "That's a major plus, and we have four defensemen coming back with varsity experience. The big question is in the net, but we're optimistic. We have a lot of our goal scoring coming back."