Boys' Hockey: Raiders hope to build on last year's experience
Before the 2017-18 season, Hastings Raiders boys' hockey head coach Adam Welch said that, in general, his team lacked experience despite a solid senior class. The Raiders went 5-20-1 as the team learned to play with one another.
This year, much of that team returns and experience will not be a problem, hopefully allowing them to pick up right where they left off.
"I think we have a lot of young guys who played important roles last year back this year," Welch said. "You just have some game experience back from last year, which is a lot of fun to have. You could already see on Saturday (during a scrimmage) the retention of the information that we're trying to teach, so we're starting from a newer spot than we had to last year."
Not having to go back and teach the basics allows Welch and his coaching staff to introduce more to the team and focus on other important areas.
"Anytime we don't have to teach this thing or that thing or these little things here," he said. "I'll give you an example, I mentioned to the kids that the communication on the bench and on the ice is something we haven't had in a little while. And the backchecking from our forwards, we didn't have to coach them, we didn't ask them to do that, we haven't talked about it much, they just did it. When you don't have to coach those things, now you can move on to some other things that are more advanced or more fun to coach."
If Hastings is able to pick up where they left off at the end of 2017-18, Welch said it will be a very different team this year.
"I think the end of last year we started to see some of the work we've been putting in with our kids as far as the type of offensive-zone habits and we got to kind of build on that last year," he said. "We actually mentioned this at the end of last year, if we could have had the team we had at the end of the year, start with that at the beginning of the year, well we kind of have that now so we're all excited about that. Just those offensive-zone habits that we have and the habits we've been trying to teach and not having to go back and start from square one."
One major area of change for the team this season will be on the defensive end as they lose two very experienced goalies and much of their defense.
"We still have some questions marks on defense and at goalie and who's going to fill those spots, but I think, as always, our d-zone is something that we have to continue to get better at and improve from last year," Welch said.
There are four candidates for the goalie position and all will get a shot to prove themselves.
"So we have one senior, Parker Johnson, and three sophomores—Tyler McCarville, Simon Hedin and Devon Anderson," Welch said. "Parker being a senior, he's got kind of the inside track and first shot at it, but we've told him, and he knows this, the best kid is going to play regardless of the age ... The feeling kind of is, right now, that we'll be rotating goalies to kind of find out who's our guy and go with that."
Welch highlighted the play of junior Chase Freiermuth early on so far in practices and scrimmages.
"Chase Freiermuth has looked really good so far this year," he said. "He's a big, strong kid who can shoot and stick handle. He's really worked hard this summer on his speed, especially late in games when guys are getting tired he continues to excel."
Looking at the schedule, Welch explained they have made an effort to include more teams in their new section after moving to Section 1AA last year. After playing Rochester Mayo and Farmington last season, this year they have added Owatonna and Dodge County, as well as two other non-conference matchups against Anoka and Albert Lea. Other non-conference games this season are home against Park in the season opener, at Red Wing, home against East Ridge and at Apple Valley.
Hastings has eight seniors this year, many of whom have multiple years of varsity experience: Logan Boogren, Nolan Conzemius (new to the team after transferring from Cretin-Derham Hall), Austin DeBoom, Nicholas Endres, Isaac Flynn, Kyle Jones, Ryan Duerkop and Johnson.