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Season Preview: East Ridge boys hockey moves on from large senior class

Raptors defenseman Luke Landin attempts to clear the puck in a section playoff game last season against Burnsville. (File photo)

The East Ridge boys hockey team will be a bit younger this season after graduating a large senior class.

About 11 seniors graduated from last year’s team that finished with a record of 8-19. The team finished the regular season with a nine-game losing streak, a stretch that ended with a 3-0 win against Eagan in the first round of the Class 2A, Section 3 playoffs.

East Ridge ended up losing 9-0 to Burnsville in the second round of the section playoffs.

“It was a little bit discouraging the last 10, 12 games of the season,” head coach Wes Walz said. “I think we lost nine or 10 one-goal games last year. So we were in a lot of games, but for whatever reason we were not able to finish games.”

Losing 11 seniors will be a challenge even for a school the size of East Ridge. Walz is looking to his returning upperclassmen to help get East Ridge ready for the season.

“It will be a bit of a challenge this year. Losing that many seniors is not easy for any coach,” Walz said. “We’re going to be younger this year for sure. But we’ve got a good group of seniors that are with us again this year, and a nice junior class and some strong goaltending. Hopefully we can build on that season last year.”

Walz said a majority of the team’s returning depth exists in the defensive core of the team. Returning defensemen include seniors Jaxon Bombardir, Sam Gerst, junior Luke Landin and sophomore Nick Basten.

Senior goaltender Nick Stearns is also back with some varsity experience.

“Hopefully we can do our best to try to keep the puck out of our net and give ourselves a chance, maybe on special teams, and score a few goals,” Walz said.

Looking at the Suburban East Conference, Walz expects Stillwater to be a favorite as perhaps the top team in the state. He also expects to see improvement from neighboring schools Park and Woodbury this year.