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The Red Wing boys hockey team takes a lap during the middle of Monday’s practice at Bergwall Arena. With longtime assistant coach Bob Rajanen taking over as the head coach, the Wingers look to improve on their 5-20-2 record in 2012-13. Red Wing opens its season Tuesday at Waconia. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)

Boys Hockey: Red Wing ready to regroup under new head coach

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Boys Hockey: Red Wing ready to regroup under new head coach
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The first half of last season was not particularly fruitful for the Red Wing boys hockey team. The Wingers, coming off a .500 record the year before, were in a tailspin from the get-go. It took until a Dec. 28 tie against Farmington before Red Wing escaped the loss column, and it would take another push against New Prague in mid-January for the team to again avoid a defeat.

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But the second half of the season saw the Wingers win five of 12 games, including a 3-2, double-overtime victory against Austin in the Section 1A playoffs.

And that bit of momentum is what Red Wing hopes to bring to the early part of the schedule for 2013-14.

“There most definitely is (something to build on),” said Wingers head coach Bob Rajanen. “Whenever you have a young team, you take it one step at a time and you hope the kids are going to be developing throughout the year. We’re not playing for now, we’re playing for the end of the year, making sure that we improve. We want to see everybody step their game up and, hopefully, we’ll be there at the end.”

If Red Wing is to make some noise in the playoffs, or early in the season for that matter, the Wingers will need to find some scoring. Gone are the top two scorers from last year in Alex Rezanoff (14 goals, 13 assists, 27 points) and Taylor Hanson (12-11—23).

The top two returning scorers are senior Michael Bigelbach and junior Dylan Goggin, both of whom totaled 15 points. But Goggin said he does not see the need to press offensively.

“I’m just hoping I can contribute what I can to the team,” Goggin said. “I know we’re bringing back a lot of players that had a lot of good opportunities and made a lot of good plays last year. So I’m hoping that I can just do my part to help make the team better and to create some opportunities for some other guys and pull some stuff together.”

Many of the chances Goggin hopes to create will go to players who don’t have much varsity experience.

“It’s going to be on-the-job training for a lot of these kids,” Rajanen said. “Our numbers are good. We’re able to field two teams. In the past, we’ve had to scramble and piecemeal here and there to get a JV team. But this year, we’ve got six lines. And that is a huge, huge plus for us because we’re not going to be burning kids out for the varsity level.”

That youth extends to the net where another junior will make his varsity debut after the graduation of last season’s back stop.

“We lost Preston Blaney, and he was a pretty solid goaltender,” Rajanen said. “Adam Defore is the returner coming back, and we’re hoping for good things out of him. But he didn’t play any varsity last year, so we just have to take our time with him.”

Practice time is running out for the Wingers, who will scrimmage today in Hastings before opening the season Nov. 26 at Waconia. Red Wing’s home opener is scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 30 against Fergus Falls.

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Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at kstevens@republican-eagle.com, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
(651) 301-7879
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