Woodbury senior Christian Turner, who missed all but five games last season wtih a back injury, scored twice in the Royals' win over rival East Ridge. Photo by Helen Nelson
Christian Turner needed only to spin and shoot.
The puck was on his stick. The net was wide open. There wasn’t a defender within 10 feet.
The culminating goal in a hat trick never had been this easy.
“It went right of his shinny!” Turner said. “I thought it was going in, I turned around and shot it, and it went off his shin.”
While an East Ridge defenseman foiled what would have been Turner’s first three-goal game since his middle-school days, there was no erasing the smile from the Woodbury senior forward’s face.
The Royals had, after all, just defeated their biggest rival 6-3. Growing up, Turner had been teammates with most all of the Raptors as members of Woodbury-based youth hockey teams, so it felt good to get a win over his buddies.
He got his two goals and just missed that third.
Best of all, he was playing hockey again.
After suffering a horrific back injury on a hit from behind early last season that left him in a brace for months and put his ability to ever play again in doubt, Turner wasn’t thinking much about hat tricks or unaccounted for shin pads or neighborhood bragging rights.
“It was really hard,” Turner said about his long, slow recovery from the fractured back, “but all I was thinking about was just getting back on the ice.”
Senior Christian Turner leads Woodbury with six goals this season. Photo by Helen Nelson
Turner was easy to spot in the Saturday, Dec. 18, triumph over the Raptors at the St. Croix Rec Center. The 5-foot-8 forward on the Royals’ top line spent considerable time with the puck on his stick, used his speed to create numerous scoring chances and displayed a zest for the game that comes in part from having to sit out all but five games of the previous season.
“It’s great to have him back on the ice with us,” Woodbury coach Wes Bolin said. “He’s such a good kid.”
Labeled the, “Woodbury kid who had the back injury,” by casual observers, Turner is now making a name for himself as a leader, playmaker and goal scorer on a surprisingly successful Royals team.
“It was really hard, but all I was thinking about was just getting back on the ice,” said Turner, who played for the Royals as a sophomore and has a team-leading six goals this season. “It is unexplainable how difficult it was to watch us lose. We had a chance to go state.
“It was just a really emotional season. We had a really talented team. I was on the bench. It was tough.”
Turner watched the Royals’ 4-0 loss to Apple Valley in the Section 3AA finals last season from the Royals’ bench. There was no better view for all that disappointment. He couldn’t have felt any worse.
Now, he couldn’t feel much better.
Woodbury is 4-4-0 to start the season and now has strung together impressive back-to-back wins over Cretin-Derham Hall and East Ridge. Not bad for a team that returned just one player, senior Matt Pederson, who played a full varsity season a year ago.
“It’s been a fun season so far,” Turner said. “We’re getting better every game.”
Woodbury sophomore Ryan Winter, left, is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and one of the few Royals players who stand taller than 6-feet. Photo by Helen Nelson
Woodbury’s lineup of forwards is not just young and inexperienced, these Royals are small.
Of the 35 players on the Royals’ roster, just five are listed as standing 6-foot or taller. Two of those players are defenseman and another is senior goaltender Zachary Moore.
“There is no size,” Woodbury coach Wes Bolin said.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Sophomore forward Ryan Winter, who has been playing varsity football for the Royals since he was a freshman, checks in at 6-3, 205 pounds.
Last season, Winter was the left wing on a line that included Jake Guentzel, another standout sophomore who is now playing at Hill-Murray. That Woodbury Bantam A team won a state championship.
Winter scored a goal against East Ridge when he shoveled a loose puck high into the net then crashed into the Raptors’ goal. He threw his weight around on numerous occasions, giving the Royals’ some muscle to their otherwise finesse game.
“Oh, he is a nice player, huh?” Bolin said. “I’m kind of anxious to see how he develops this year. I think he could be a pretty special player someday.”
As for the rest of the Woodbury forwards, they did their damage with their speed and nonstop hustle.
“It’s hard to hit what you can’t catch if you are not going to compete and skate,” East Ridge coach Doug Long said.
Defenseman Zach Wahlin of Woodbury and forward Kelvin Walz collide over the puck. Photo by Helen Nelson
Christian Turner scored twice and Blake Kelly and Chase Myers-Beck each had a goal and two assists for Woodbury as it beat neighboring rival East Ridge 6-3 on Saturday, Dec. 18, as part of the Suburban East Conference’s Hockey Day at the St. Croix Valley Rec Center in Stillwater.
Turner, a senior who missed all but five games of last season with a broken back, opened the scoring midway through the first period. His second goal put Woodbury ahead 5-0 late in the second period.
The Royals (3-4-0) extended their lead to 6-0 and forced a running clock on the scoreboard on a goal by sophomore Ryan Winter 1:09 into the third period.
East Ridge showed some spark in the final stages of the third period, scoring all three of its goals in a span of 4:05. Michael Maeder, Braedon Hyland and Kelvin Walz scored the goals for the Raptors (3-4-0).
Woodbury goaltender Zach Moore finished with 16 saves. Thomas Wermers, who entered the game in the second period in relief of East Ridge starter Spencer Donnelly, stopped nine of 10 shots. Donnelly made 16 saves on 21 shots.
1. Christian Turner, Woodbury
The Royals senior scored two goals and just missed getting the hat trick in the third period when he spun and fired a shot that was ticketed to sail into an open net but instead ricocheted off an East Ridge defender’s shin pad and skidded into the corner.
2. Ryan Winter, Woodbury
A rare power forward (Winter stands 6-foot-3 and weighs well over 200 pounds) on a team loaded with undersized scorers, the sophomore used his size and strength effectively and finished with a goal and an assist.
3. Kelvin Walz, East Ridge
The senior forward was among the ringleaders of the Raptors’ mini-comeback in the third period, when he had a goal and an assist. Walz is the son of East Ridge assistant coach and former Minnesota Wild forward Wes Walz.
East Ridge forward Kelvin Walz. Photo by Helen Nelson