Boys hockey: Raptors edge Royals 1-0
Strong defense has placed East Ridge as a surging team in the Suburban East Conference and the Raptors continued to display prowess in both areas Saturday in a 1-0 victory over district rival Woodbury at Bielenberg Arena in Woodbury.
East Ridge senior forward Jack Greeley put the Raptors (13-9-2, 9-6-2 SEC) in front with a goal on an assist from Jack Dwyer 8 minutes, 33 seconds into the game and East Ridge held that lead the rest of the way.
The Raptors held the Royals (6-14-3, 1-11-3 SEC) to 20 shots on net for the game behind a disciplined defense and goaltender Tyler Guck rising to the occasion when needed. Guck finished with 20 saves to help give East Ridge its fifth consecutive victory.
The Raptors have become a different team since they tied Woodbury 2-2 Jan. 10 at Cottage Grove Ice Arena. The last time the two teams met East Ridge was scuffling with a 5-7-2 record, a season-worst three games below .500 but since that time the Raptors have emerged as one of the hottest teams in the Suburban East Conference with an 8-2 record in their last 10 games.
"The kids are starting to gel and kind of figure out what we're trying to accomplish and what their roles are," East Ridge head coach Doug Long said. "I think you're seeing the rewards of their consistent efforts and buying in to what we've got going on."
Both teams played discipline hockey with only one penalty between the teams for the game, which came in the third period against the Raptors. East Ridge successfully killed the penalty despite playing without defenseman Ryan Karrow.
The Royals, despite their season-long struggles, put together a strong defensive effort as well and limited the Raptors' chances. East Ridge finished with 31 shots but weren't able to generate many quality chances throughout the game.
Part of that stemmed from Woodbury's defense and the other part came in the play of goaltender Austin Macalus, who made his first start of the season. Macalus made 30 saves in net and helped keep the Royals in the game throughout.
"They had a couple of chances off line rushes and a couple of chances off defensive zone coverage," Woodbury head coach Wes Bolin said. "I thought our guys played hard, but they didn't play hard enough."
The Royals' chances came in flurries, but their best chances came in the final 1:30 with the goalie pulled. Woodbury put together a strong finish, but couldn't find the equalizer.
"Our big 12 objectives each game is we want to put 30 on net and keep them 20 and we realize if we do that more often than not that's one of the factors that will help us get to a win," Long said.
That's exactly what the Raptors got behind the play of Tyler Guck who has gained the role as the No. 1 goalie during the winning streak.
"Our confidence in him has built his confidence a little bit," Long said. "He's controlling the puck better and seeing the puck well and not giving up a lot of rebounds. That is definitely a big factor, something that has changed since the start of the season."
East Ridge finishes the regular season with Forest Lake Thursday while Woodbury faces Hastings Tuesday in Woodbury and Park Thursday in Cottage Grove.
East Ridge got things going early Thursday in a 4-2 victory over Mounds View at Cottage Grove Ice Arena.
The Raptors scored three goals in the first period and added a fourth goal in the third period to overtake the Mustangs for their fourth consecutive victory. East Ridge has gotten stingy defensively in that span, giving up more than two goals just once and that came in a 6-4 victory over Hastings.
Zach Wahl, who got called up from the junior varsity team for the game, scored twice and Derek Hammer added two goals for the Raptors, who made up for a 5-5 tie to Mounds View earlier in the season.
Hammer scored twice in the first period and helped stake East Ridge to a 3-1 lead at the 12:34 mark. His goal came 31 seconds after Wahl's first goal and 2:26 after his first goal of the game.
Nick Leach and Ian Penvose assisted on both of Hammer's goals while Robert Nickoloff assisted on both of Wahl's goals. Tyler Hart assisted on Wahl's second goal of the game at 11:06 of the third period.
The Raptors finished with 48 shots on goal and the Mustangs had 37 shots. Both teams went 0-for-3 on the power play.
Guck finished with 35 saves in goal for East Ridge.