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Woodbury boys hockey: Youth continues to challenge Royals

Woodbury’s Josh Condon takes a shot Dec. 21 against East Ridge at Bielenberg Arena. East Ridge took control in the second period en route to a 4-2 victory.(Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt)

With all new varsity players except four, growing pains have been in abundance for the Royals boys hockey team.

“Our team is very inexperienced at the varsity level and getting better each week,” Woodbury head coach Wes Bolin said. “We have only two forwards and two defensemen that played regular varsity shifts last year.”

A 4-2 loss against intra-district and Suburban East Conference rival East Ridge (3-5, 3-3 SEC) on Dec. 21 illustrated this clearly. The Royals held the veteran Raptors to a goal in the first period despite being out-shot 14-4. Tristan Mayer tied the game 1-1 for the Royals in the second period on a break-away goal unassisted at 1:43.

The Royals surrendered two goals to the Raptors afterward in the period, including one short-handed for a 3-1 deficit. In the third period, the Royals turned up the intensity with more puck control. They out-shot the Raptors 14-7 in that final period.

Nick Sheak put the Royals back within a goal late in the period at 13:26 on a power play. Seth Winger assisted on the goal.

Bolin pulled the goalie to give the Royals an extra player on the ice in the final minute, but the Raptors capitalized and scored an empty netter. Austen Macalus took the loss in goal for the Royals with 29 saves and a .906 save percentage.

In the week prior to that game, the Royals (4-6; 1-6 SEC) had hung with the top two teams in the conference. Against White Bear Lake, the Royals held the Bears to their lowest shot total of the season in a 4-1 loss on Dec. 14. The Royals did the same to the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders in a 2-1 loss on Dec. 19.

“Our team played extremely hard,” Bolin said. “It had a playoff feel to the game.”

The Royals have played most of the SEC teams tough, losing by three or fewer goals usually. They only took one shut-out, a 5-0 last week at Forest Lake on Dec. 7.

“Forest Lake was the one game we got out of early,” Bolin said. “We’ve got another shot at them.”

During the Christmas break, the Royals played in South Saint Paul’s holiday tournament at Wakota Arena. They opened with a 6-4 win over Hastings on Thursday, Dec. 26. Sasha Choprov and Ryne Triemert each had two goals for the Royals. Sheak and Marshall Tschida both added goals.

The Royals open the new year this Thursday with a rebuilding Apple Valley team (0-7, 0-4 South Suburban Conference). On Saturday, the Royals return to SEC play at third-place Stillwater (5-3, 4-2 SEC).

—Matthew Davis