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The Medford Raiders begin the new hockey season with a roster heavy on experienced underclassmen and, arguably, better depth than recent years.

New head coach Galen Searles and second-year assistant Jesse Kreiner hope they can get those pieces to fit in the right places and give the Raiders a jolt after a couple seasons where wins proved difficult to get.

The 20-man roster starting this year features six seniors who return as letter winners, five juniors are back from last year and three sophomores who contributed a year ago. The freshman class is also adding a couple of potentially-strong contributors, adding to the excitement to start the new season.

For Searles, who moves up to high school coaching after several years leading teams in the youth ranks, having this kind of depth is something he’s enjoying getting used to. He also said the physical strength and maturity of having an older team also stands out in practice.

“From the coaching part of it, I’ve never been privileged to have this many solid skaters all together because in youth hockey, you just have two ages at one time,” Searles said Monday.

After officially starting practice on Nov. 11, the Raiders got the season started Tuesday night with a non-conference game at Shawano. The game took place after The Star News’ early holiday deadline for this week. Medford’s next game and its home opener is set for Friday, Dec. 6 at 5 p.m. against the Merrill Co-op at the Simek Recreation Center.

Searles felt the Raiders made a steady progression through the first two weeks of practices. Unlike past years, where practice times often flipped back and forth with the girls team, the Raiders have been consistently going early in the morning, which has allowed the players to settle into a routine. Focusing on a lot of individual skill work, conditioning and eventually more team work in those first two weeks, the coaches were anxious to see what it looks like now that games are about to begin.

“One thing we like to do is break them up into small groups and work more on their skills in practice,” Searles said. “A lot of times they can get more done that way than with everyone just being in one group. We have been hitting the conditioning hard, so hopefully that’s good right off the bat. I do a lot of research and always have a practice plan. We’ll work on a set of skills one day and then it’s a progressive plan from there. The next day we’ll do the same drill but modify that and build off it.”

Offensive lines and defensive pairings started to come together last week. Searles is excited about Medford’s defensive potential.

It starts with senior goaltender AJ Adleman, who had an .880 save percentage in 21 starts last winter when he compiled nearly 850 saves in his first season as the full-time starter.

“He is a relentless worker,”