Connor Stoffel.JPG

Hastings' Connor Stoffel (7) scored two goals in the Raiders' loss to Lakeville North and two more against Dodge County. Alec Hamilton / Hastings Star Gazette

The Hastings Raiders boys hockey team enters the Section 1AA playoffs as the No. 3 seed as it searches for the elusive section championship and trip to state.

The Raiders are behind No. 2 Lakeville North and No. 1 Lakeville South and will most likely have to beat both to achieve their goal. Historically, the Lakevilles have been Hastings’ nemesis as North and South have been the teams to eliminate the Raiders in the semi finals and finals the past four seasons. 

Lakeville South is currently the No. 9-ranked team in Class AA and finished the regular season 22-3 overall and 4-0 against section opponents. Hastings had a case for the No. 2 seed ahead of Lakeville North, which was just three QRF points ahead of the Raiders, had a worse overall record (19-6) and section record (3-2). However, both teams have the advantage of playing in the hyper-competitive South Suburban Conference, which often gives them the edge when it comes to seeding competitions.

The Raiders host No. 6-seeded Owatonna on Thursday, Feb. 24, at Hastings Civic Arena. The Huskies were 10-14-1 in the regular season and 3-3 in Section 1AA. The winner faces either Lakeville North or No. 7 Rochester Century (12-10-1) on Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Rochester Recreation Center. The section championship game is March 3 at the Rochester Recreation Center.

Hastings rode a 15-game winning streak from Dec. 22 against Mounds View until it came to an end on Feb. 12 against Champlin Park. The Raiders fell behind early to the Rebels and were not able to recover, falling 4-1. 

“I thought we had good feet in the first period, halfway through I thought we found our game pretty decent,” head coach Matt Klein said. “We just continuously got outworked in some areas that we can’t lose. There were some different routes that we took, we didn’t handle it very well but we still had chances to score, we just didn’t make that next play enough times tonight.”

Champlin Park scored once in the first period and again in the second to lead 2-0 heading into the third. The Raiders got on the board to start the third period with a power-play goal from Connor Stoffel, assisted by Luke Savage. However, the Rebels responded just a few minutes later to go up 3-1 and that was it.

“When we made it 2-1, there wasn’t a guy on the bench who didn’t think it was going to be 2-2,” Klein said about trying to make a comeback. “But I think our issue was, which we mentioned in the locker room, when it became 3-1 it just felt different and it shouldn’t have.”

Hastings attempted to bounce back five days later in a regular-season showdown against Lakeville North and fell 5-4 in a back-and-forth battle which saw the Panthers score the game-winning goal in the final 10 seconds of regulation. 

The Raiders scored in the opening minutes of the game on a goal by Savage, assisted by Collin Stewart. Lakeville North evened the game at 15 minutes, 46 seconds of the period for a 1-1 tie heading into the second. The Panthers went ahead 2-1 50 seconds into the second period but this time it was Hastings’ turn to answer with a goal halfway through the period from Stoffel with help from Jackson Sweeney. Lakeville North managed a power-play goal at the end of the period for a 3-2 lead.

Hastings tied the game at three apiece 3:23 into the third period with a power-play goal by John Chorlton, assisted by Logan DeBettignies and Stewart. Another Lakeville goal, followed by Stoffel’s second goal of the game, made it 4-4 with less than seven minutes left in the game. It looked like it would head to overtime, but then the Panthers scored with eight seconds left in the game to sneak out a 5-4 win.

Hastings ended the regular season with a 9-0 blowout win at Dodge County. Sweeney had a hat trick in the win, Stoffel added two more goals and Stephen Reifenberger, Chorlton, Jake Harris and Blake Vandehoef each had a goal apiece. 

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