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Raider boys' hockey lays foundation for years to come

The Hastings boys' hockey team finished its season with an 8-18 overall record after losing to Park of Cottage Grove 3-1 in the first round of section playoffs. The Raiders took sixth in the Metro East Conference after compiling a 5-7 record in the MEC. However, head coach Adam Welch said that this season cannot be measured by just wins and losses.

"I think we did pretty well (this season)," Welch said. "As far as wins and losses, you always want to win more, but we had different goals this year. We wanted to build a team that felt like a family. We worked hard to play for each other and to really build something in the locker room together. In my opinion we started laying the foundation for our team-first culture, so I would consider this year a success."

After a rough start during which the Raiders lost their first seven games, Welch said his team never gave up.

"We did not start well and our team stuck together and battled all year long," Welch said. "We competed in almost every game we played this year. We played a lot of close games and when that happens it can be stressful, but fun."

The opposite side of those close games is that Hastings had chances to win them.

"I thought we could have done a better job of finishing some games," Welch explained. "At the beginning of the year we set a goal to win every third period. I think we struggled to really accomplish that goal on a regular basis. It's hard to do because teams take it up another level when it gets down to crunch time, but when you do, more times than not it leads to a win. This is something I hope we can learn how to do for next year."

Once that seven-game losing streak was out of the way at the beginning of the year, the Raiders were close to .500 with an 8-10 record during the regular season.

"We did have a better second half after starting 0-7," Welch stated. "In the beginning I don't think we were playing poorly, we were just not getting the outcome we wanted. We kept telling our kids how close we were to winning games and to their credit. They kept believing and working to get better. I think the most important thing was our kids had a never-give-up attitude. We stayed together. We believed we could win every game we played. It is fun to be around a group that thinks that way."

Hastings graduates 10 seniors at the end of the season and Welch said he is looking for underclassmen to step up and fill those gaps.

"It will be difficult to replace our seniors and the many roles they played," Welch said. "We will be looking to a lot of guys to step up and produce, not only on the score sheet, but also in the locker room as leaders. Fortunately, we have some young guys with experience that will hopefully step up. We will be looking to Leo Otto, Logan Boogren, Morgan Sweeney, Logan Stokke, Jason Williams and both goalies of Scotty Tuin and Jacob Greengo."

The seniors who are graduating this year are Zack Johnson, Mat Nicklay, Luke Larson, Alec Rudh, Tucker Duffy, Luke Johnson, Jake Foster, Clay Harris, Colin Sieh and Peter Meyer.

"I think our seniors did a great job of leading the way and got us moving in the right direction for next year," Welch finished. "When I talk about laying the foundation for a team-first/winning culture, they need to take pride in getting us moving in the right direction. We had our exit meetings and I made sure to let them know they should take pride in any type of success we have next year and for years to come."

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a sports reporter and general assignment reporter at the Hastings Star Gazette. He is a journalism graduate of Drake University.

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