By: Jared Hines
It’s always nice for a team to reward their new head coach with a quality win in the first game of the season.
It’s even nicer when the team backs that performance up with an even nicer win in game No. 2.
The Rogers boys hockey team is off to a nice start in the 2016-17 season, outscoring their opponents 11-1 en route to a 2-0 record. The team is getting production from their returning starters, with fresh faces doing more than their fair share to contribute.
“The team has been doing really well with scoring so far,” sophomore Mitchell Becker said. “To have 11 goals in two games is awesome.”
The first game, back on Nov. 23, featured the Royals at home against Osseo. The Royals came out firing, outshooting the Orioles 18-1 in the first period with goals by Jake Moss and Michael VanStelten. Osseo scored early in the second period to briefly make it a game, but the Royals controlled the offensive zone from there on out. Sophomore Justin Grudem added his first two varsity goals within ten minutes of each other and senior Tanner Voeller added an insurance goal to complete the scoring ten minutes into the third period. The 5-1 win before the Thanksgiving break gave the Royals confidence heading into the next game.
“I think our team has been working hard and moving the puck well,” Grudem said about his team’s early success.
Game No. 2 was much the same for Grudem and the Royals, this time against Coon Rapids.
Becker started the scoring for the Royals on Nov. 29 with help from teammates Jordan Fischer and Jake Moss. Much like Grudem in the first game, Becker goal was his first career varsity goal.
“Honestly, it felt unbelievable,” Becker said after the game. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to score a goal.”
Fischer scored his first goal of the season near the end of the first period to give Rogers a 2-0 lead after the first period and that was more than enough insurance for Rogers goalie Johnny Preusse, who stopped all 19 shots that came his way to earn the shutout. Royals players are quick to give credit where it’s due to their teammates, including Grudem talking about Fischer.
“He is a team player that works hard on and off the ice every day,” Grudem said. “He always gives it everything he’s got and has been a good role model for all of us.”
Grudem would score two more goals in the 6-0 win over the Cardinals, with VanStelten and Fischer each adding one as well. Fischer has two goals and four assists through two games to lead the team in scoring while Grudem is right behind him with four goals and one assist. In two games, thirteen Royals players already have a point.
“We have had really good leaders on and off the ice pushing everyone in the weight room,” Becker said, mentioning the team lunches that many members of the team have that build chemistry.
The Royals (2-0) next game is Dec. 8 against St. Francis at the East Bethel Ice Arena. The Saints are 1-0 this year, beating Shakopee 4-3 in overtime in their first game of the season. It is the first Mississippi 8 conference game for either opponent.