The East Ridge boys' hockey team is looking for improvement in the first year under new head coach Dustin Vogelgesang.
Vogelgesang met with team captain Luke Landin last April to get an idea of what the Raptors were hoping to accomplish this winter. The brainstorming session produced significant goals: to finish with a .500 winning percentage, finish in the top half of the Suburban East Conference and earn a high enough section seed to host a home playoff game and get at least one win in the section tournament. Last year, the Raptors finished with a record of 4-21-2.
"Those are our goals. I think they are realistic," Vogelgesang said. "I think some are definitely going to be more difficult than others to attain, but I needed something to come from the players."
Vogelgesang has brought in two new varsity assistants to go with three who are returning. Returning coaches include Kori Pearson, Mike Tracy and David Cole to go along with new coaches Dan LaCroix and Mike Fox.
The coaching staff has included some new twists to the way they run practices, including allowing music during the first 10 minutes of practice during warmups.
"It's going real good," Vogelgesang said. "There's definitely a change to how we do some things, as far as the way we practice. It's been a bit of a transition from the players."
Eight seniors graduated from last season, and Vogelgesang said it was tough to see them go since all were around since they were sophomores in his first season as an assistant with then-head coach Wes Walz.
"All of them had a huge impact in my first couple of years here at East Ridge," Vogelgesang said.
Besides Landin, Joseph Dokken and Gunnar Edlund will also be captains this season.
Vogelgesang expects Cretin-Derham Hall, White Bear Lake and Stillwater to be among the contenders for the top of the Suburban East Conference this year. He added that getting wins will be difficult in a deep conference.
East Ridge is scheduled to open its season at Rosemount on Wednesday, Nov. 29. It will then host Park on Thursday, Dec. 7, in a home game at Cottage Grove Ice Arena.