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Hastings' Vogelgesang hired as new East Ridge boys' hockey coach

One of Dustin Vogelgesang's most vivid memories of his time at Hastings High School was as a player with the Raiders' hockey team.

The 1999 graduate was part of the Hastings squad that finished second to Roseau in the Class 2A state tournament during his senior season. The same group of Hastings players also won a state baseball championship that spring.

"Looking back now after being a coach for so long at the high school level, I realize how lucky I was to be a part of that," Vogelgesang said. "To have that opportunity with that many good athletes in a two-, three-year span is unbelievable."

Vogelgesang was hired this week as the new head coach of the East Ridge boys' hockey team, taking over the program from Wes Walz who resigned at the conclusion of the winter season.

Vogelgesang has plenty of experience as a coach at the high school level, starting with a five-year stint as an assistant to longtime Hastings head coach Russ Welch.

As a Woodbury resident, Vogelgesang moved closer to home after the 2014 season to become the top assistant for Walz.

"I coached with two great coaches in Russ and Wes," Vogelgesang said. "Both are two different types of coaches. For me to be able to learn from both, and then being able to learn the details of the game at such a high level as Wes, has just given me so much more confidence and ability to teach those same details to our players for years ahead."

Now that he has been hired as the head coach, Vogelgesang hopes to continue building from where Walz left off.

"We had a lot of fun, we had a lot of laughs," Vogelgesang said about his time coaching with Walz. "We obviously would have liked to win more games and have the kids have more success, but I told the players in our meeting today coach Walz laid a great foundation. And now it's our job to build the house on it."

East Ridge Activities Director Joel Olson said Vogelgesang's experience with the program helped him stand out among a group of three finalists for the head coaching position. Vogelgesang met with the East Ridge hockey players Friday to let them know he was hired as the new head coach.

The East Ridge boys' hockey team has finished toward the bottom of the Suburban East Conference in the past few seasons. The Raptors finished with an overall record of 4-21-2 last season.

Walz addressed the challenges of having one youth hockey program for two high schools, Woodbury Area Hockey Club, when he decided to resign earlier this month. Generating interest for the Woodbury and East Ridge high school programs can be a challenge when a majority of the youth hockey players are in one association.

Vogelgesang has made the issue a priority, and he has been speaking with Woodbury Area Hockey Association President Patrick Sondreal to find a solution.

"We've been working very hard with the Woodbury Area Hockey Club to find a way to potentially split the association into two silos," Vogelgesang said. "So there's a silo of kids that live in the Woodbury boundary, and there's a silo of kids in the East Ridge boundary to get more kids opportunities to build some pride behind each of the schools."

Vogelgesang said he has also spoken with Cottage Grove Hockey Association President Jeff Bloedel about connecting with future East Ridge players in that program.