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Girls' Hockey: East Ridge pulls away from Park in third period

East Ridge's Katie Flynn skates into the offensive zone in front of Park defender Allison Best on Saturday. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)1 / 4
Park forward Tina Press chases a puck into the East Ridge zone on Saturday. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)2 / 4
Park's Adie Steinke skates into East Ridge's offensive zone in the third period. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)3 / 4
Grace Heiting looks for a teammate to pass the puck to on Saturday. The East Ridge forward scored twice in a 5-2 victory over Park. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)4 / 4

The East Ridge girls’ hockey team put together a complete third period of play to finish off a Suburban East Conference win against rival Park on Saturday.

Already leading 3-2, the Raptors’ offense got to work in scoring two more goals in the third period for a 5-2 win at Cottage Grove Ice Arena. Grace Heiting scored just one minute into the third period to give the Raptors a two-goal cushion. Later on, Andrea Arntzen added another.

Those goal scorers said they recognized the importance of playing a strong third period on Saturday. The Raptors’ effort matched the expectations.

“I would say that was probably one of the best third periods that we played in awhile,” Arntzen said. “Winning the third period is essential to winning a game, too. So I think it was good that we came out strong.”

Park and East Ridge traded goals in the first period before Fiona Claugherty scored with seven minutes left to take a 2-1 East Ridge lead into the first intermission. Heiting ended up with two goals on the night after scoring in the first period. Heather Degler netted a goal for Park.

The score was 3-2 after two periods as East Ridge’s Siobhan Claugherty and Park’s Shauna Miller each scored in the second.

Park outshot East Ridge in the first period and had several opportunities on the power play. Head coach Steve Morse said a few unlucky bounces did not help as East Ridge came back to control the puck for much of the second period and take advantage of a few Park misplays.

“I thought we had a very strong first period, a couple of bad breaks on the goals,” Morse said. “That changes the tone of the game a little bit. The girls played hard, maybe a little too hard.”

East Ridge’s Suburban East Conference win on Saturday helped the players rebound from a 4-2 loss to Forest Lake earlier in the week on Dec. 13. The loss ended a four-game winning streak.

Forest Lake controlled the puck for most of the first period, outshooting the Raptors 12-5 in taking an early 2-0 lead. East Ridge came back to play an even game with the Rangers the rest of the night.

Head coach Tom Kulenkamp said a good defense was the key to winning four games in a row before the Forest Lake game.

“Any time you can keep a team to one or zero, you are going to have a chance to win,” Kulenkamp said. “That’s what we did in that streak. We’re giving up a few too many goals right now. Even two for us, we would like to be at one or zero.”

Saturday’s win improved East Ridge to 4-2 in Suburban East Conference play this season, which puts them in the top half of the standings.

The Raptors are optimistic with how they have started the season after needing to replace some key seniors who graduated.

“We had a lot of lines move up, it was kind of a rotation,” Heiting said. “Everybody knew they had to step up. I think we knew that we could do some pretty awesome things this year, I don’t think we knew exactly what. It’s hard to say. But we’re definitely happy with how it’s going.”

The Wolfpack dropped to a Suburban East Conference record of 0-5-1 this season with Saturday’s loss to East Ridge.

They are still working on putting everything together with a lineup of inexperienced players to start the season. Morse said more consistent play should come as the players become more comfortable with the puck.

“We had parts of our game that worked tonight,” Morse said. “We’re not putting all of the parts together on a given night. One night, we’re doing something real well and a couple of other things not so well. Then we tend to trade those things around a little bit.”