Raiders happy to be back on the court
It's been nearly two years since the Rochester Raiders have been able to play an adapted floor hockey game. That will change soon -- hopefully. The Raiders will have a lot of new faces in 2022, but they're excited to be back on the court.
The last time the Rochester Raiders played a game that counted, they knew they had a state tournament berth locked up and were looking forward to playing at Bloomington Jefferson High School, the site of the annual adapted floor hockey state tournament.
That was nearly two years ago, in March of 2020.
Just before the Raiders were set to board a bus to the Twin Cities, COVID-19 began to rapidly wipe out sporting events all across the country.
It wiped out not only the 2020 state tournament, but all of the 2021 season.
So there may be no group of athletes more excited to be back on a court, preparing to play a game that counts.
And while the Raiders don't have a large roster, they have one that is full of talent and half-full of new faces.
As head coach Jeff Copler says, the theme for this year's team is going to be "getting to know you."
This year will mark the final season of play for the Raiders at their home gym at Freidell Middle School. Rochester will have 11 players on the team, five of whom are new to the sport. The Raiders will also welcome a new assistant coach, Mike Dusso, who is taking the place of former assistant Beth Rindy.
Rochester will be tasked will filling the shoes of some ultra-talented graduated players, a group that Copler said is one of the most talented classes the Raiders have had come through the program. That group includes Kirk Peterson, Blake Hillman, Garrison Israelson and Jacob Ellegbede.
The challenge for the Raiders this year will be to field an all-new starting lineup while blending in the newcomers and younger players. The only returning starter will be captain and senior Stuart Batterson, who moves from the wheelchair defenseman to the goalie position.
"If you're only going to have experience at one position, it may as well be goalie and build out from there," Copler said.
Returning players expected to compete for starting positions are Joe Clark, (John Marshall), William Adamson (Byron), Andrew Westerman (Century), Calvin Rowland (JM) and Charlie Clark (Byron).
New to the team this year will be Samantha Morrissey and Noah Thoman of Century, and from Byron, Nate Barber and Braedon Booth, and Eli Yoder from Kellogg Middle School.
While this will be the youngest Raiders team in quite some while, Copler said the coaches are quite pleased with the progress shown by the team since the beginning of practice earlier this month.
The Raiders had to cancel their annual season-opening Jamboree, but they are scheduled to play their season opener on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. against Minneapolis, at Freidell Middle School.