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Winter sports season begins Tuesday

You'd never know it by looking outside, but the winter sports season is just around the corner. As in: Tuesday.

That's right. The winter sports season officially kicks off Tuesday when the Hastings girls hockey team travels to Red Wing to face the Wingers.

Practices begin for most other sports over the next two weeks.

Two captains from last year's team return this season for Hastings. They are Courtney Boucher and Brittney Huneke. More captains will likely be named soon.

A total of 31 girls made the team, including 24 returning players. Of the seven new faces, four played with the Raiders two years ago and are back, and three are brand new to varsity.

"We have a lot of returning players," Corkish said. "We had a good crop of kids try out, and we have a good number of kids out for our U14 team as well."

Four key seniors will play big roles for the Raiders.

Goalkeeper Stef Wical returns from a solid junior year.

Huneke is a strong defensive player who has earned a Division I scholarship to play at Maine.

Boucher plays center and was a key scorer for the Raiders last year.

Mackenzie Klimek is back for her senior season and should have a strong year, too.

"We start with those four," Corkish said. "That's a great base. All four of them could go on to play college hockey."

Hastings has three other solid seniors and a good crop of underclassmen.

"We have the most talented depth that we have had in a long time," Corkish said. "We have a lot of kids who will fight for ice time every night. It's going to breed healthy competition. We haven't had that in the past, at least not as much of it as we have now."

Corkish said the Raiders will also need some offensive production from its players on the blue line.

"We need to score points from the point this year, otherwise we're going to have trouble," he said.

The program is headed in the right direction, Corkish said, referencing a strong varsity team and a number of very good younger players coming up the ranks.

"We're in a pretty good year," he said. "We have some holes like anybody else, but we have some good kids coming up. We have some kids who are kicking down some doors down at the varsity level. That's good -- it gives us some options. We also know we have some good kids at the U14 level, and some good players at the U12 level, too."

Hastings finished last season with a 16-8-3 overall record.