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Boys' Hockey: Raptors keep it close with Stillwater

The East Ridge boys’ hockey team was up to the task of facing one of the top teams in the state on Nov. 29.

No. 2-ranked Stillwater found itself trailing East Ridge early thanks to a Carter VanDenEinde power-play goal just 43 seconds into the game for a 1-0 Raptors lead.

The Ponies came back to tie the game late in the first period thanks to a Jesse Bjugstad power-play goal. Austin Murr scored on the power play in the second period to give Stillwater a 2-1 lead, and the Ponies later added an empty-net goal in a 3-1 final.

Head coach Wes Walz said he was proud of the effort the Raptors had to stick with one of the top teams in the state. He said the Raptors had “an unbelievable” scoring chance in the third period that was turned aside by Stillwater goaltender Seth Eisele.

“Stillwater is obviously one of the top three or four teams in the state, so anytime you play them they are going to have the puck more than you,” Walz said.

Goaltender Nick Stearns helped keep East Ridge in the game as he stopped 42 of 44 shots on goal. Walz said Stearns has looked good in both games and at practices so far this season.

“Goaltending, any coach will tell you this at any level, it’s important,” Walz said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re at. So far we’ve been getting good goaltending out of him.”

East Ridge bounced back with a 5-3 nonconference victory in Hastings.

VanDenEinde continued his hot start to the season by scoring three goals and getting two assists in the win. Sam Gerst and Joseph Dokken each also scored goals, and Tyler Johnson had three assists.

Stearns stopped 18 of 21 shots on goal in the victory. Colin Sieh led Hastings two goals for Hastings.

With four goals, senior forward VanDenEinde has been a big factor in East Ridge’s 1-1 start to the season. Walz added that the senior captain has also proven how much he wants to help out his teammates as well.

“We were so proud of Carter in how he took a lot of kids under his wing this summer with the off-ice training, and how hard he trained himself,” Walz said. “We as a staff decided to make him the permanent C. I think he’s the perfect captain for our players, he takes a lot of pride in it.”

East Ridge is set to play White Bear Lake on the road Tuesday before coming home to play home games against Forest Lake on Thursday and Woodbury on Saturday.

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