Preview: Boys hockey team returns 13 letterwinnersExpect another good season from the Hastings boys hockey team. The Raiders likely won’t be contending for a state title this year, but they have a good chance to win more games than they lose – not an easy accomplishment considering the fact that Hastings has a strong non-conference schedule and the fact they play in the competitive Suburban East Conference.
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
Expect another good season from the Hastings boys hockey team. The Raiders likely won’t be contending for a state title this year, but they have a good chance to win more games than they lose – not an easy accomplishment considering the fact that Hastings has a strong non-conference schedule and the fact they play in the competitive Suburban East Conference.
“We want to get better every day,” coach Russ Welch said. “If we get better and do the little things right on a regular basis, we will win more games than we lose.”
Hastings has a solid crop of defensemen. The variables this year will be goaltending and offense. Hastings has three goalies without varsity experience, and scoring enough goals is something every coach worries himself with.
“The key this year will be if we can get good goaltending and if we can score some goals,” Welch said. “A strength of ours will be our work ethic. We think we’ll be in every game. I think we’re going to have a fairly successful season.
“I think we have a good chance to finish in the top half of our conference, and the top half of our section. With a break here or there, we could end up toward the top of each.”
Hastings returns 13 letterwinners from last year’s team.
“We’re deep that way,” Welch said. “The cupboard is not bare.”
Captains are Matt Koch, Zach Mellick and Andrew Bussey. All three are seniors.
Koch is a defenseman. He was a captain last year, so he has the honor of serving as a two-year captain.
“He’s a very good player,” Welch said. “He’s a leader on and off the ice for us. He’s a very good, steady defenseman. He has some offense in his game, but he’s on the defensive side of the puck more often than not.”
Mellick will play center.
“He’s a hard-nosed center,” Welch said. “He plays extremely tough. He’s very good with the puck in tight areas.”
Bussey is a wing.
“He’s a guy who handles the puck very well, and is very intelligent,” Welch said. “He can score goals.”
Ten seniors are on the roster this year. In addition to the three captains, the group includes goalie Mike Barr, who played on the Junior Gold team last year. It will be his first year on varsity.
“He has done a nice job in the summer, the fall and in the tryouts here,” Welch said.
Brandon Boogren, David McConnell and Jake Caneff are all senior defensemen.
“David can really shoot the puck,” Welch said. “Brandon is a kid who plays very solid defense – he just does his job very quietly. We converted Jake from forward to defense. He is doing an outstanding job. He skates extremely well and moves the puck very well.”
Bailey Siewert got his senior season off to a great start with a true hat trick in the team’s first game.
“He’s very smart, and is a good goal scorer,” Welch said.
Joe Shingledecker is a forward, too.
“He’s got good size, and has good hands,” Welch said.
Adam Husting rounds out the roster of seniors.
“He doesn’t get to play a lot, but he’s a great character guy,” Welch said. “He gives us great effort.”
Juniors include Jacob Cooper, Mark Huneke, Matt Flynn, Jake Otto, Andy Neuman, Austin Schlander, Colin Shoen, Blake Berg, San Otto and Tyler Woyke.
Sophomores are Austin Houska, Tucker Piotrowski, Mikey Junker and Matt Radke.
Radke started the team’s first two games in goal. Woyke and Barr are challenging him for playing time.
“Early on, Matt is the leader in the house,” Welch said, but the other guys will get some time, too. It’s kind of open right now with the goalies.”
Welch expects White Bear Lake to be the top team in the conference this year.
Stillwater, Cretin-Derham Hall and Mounds View should all be in the top half of the conference, too.
Eagan, Eastview and Cretin-Derham Hall should all be in the top half of the section.
“I think we are a top-half team in both the conference and the section,” Welch said. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”