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Fast and furious

02/08/2012, 11:50pm CST
By Justin Magill, MN Hockey Hub staff

Three goals 65 seconds apart propels Eden Prairie over Wayzata

It was less than three weeks ago that Eden Prairie had to make its way back home after being shutout by Lake Conference rival Wayzata, 4-0.

On Feb. 9, at the Eden Prairie Community Center, there was a similar setting taking place, all to familiar for the No. 6 Eagles, but they did not let this one linger, defeating the Trojans 4-1.

Eden Prairie waited a while to strike, but when it did, it came in a hurry and kept on coming.

Eagle's forward Andrew Knudsen scored the eventual game-winning goal when he banked a shot off of Wayzata goalie, Alec Almquist in the third period, which gave Eden Prairie a 2-1 lead.

Just eight seconds later, Steven Spinner made it 3-1 and 57 seconds after, Luke Sudman buried a shot to give the Eagles a commanding 4-1 lead.

"Our guys get excited when we get one and our goal is to score right after we get one," Eden Prairie coach, Lee Smith said. "We want to make sure that we get another chance right away, after we get that first one."

In order for the Eagles to garner the momentum it had heading into the final period, there was an extremely tough start they had to overcome.

Wayzata's Sam Majka scored the game's first goal and capped off an impressive road start for a team that dominated the Eagles back on Jan. 21.

Majka's early goal and the overall play of the Trjojans brought back some harsh memories for Eden Prairie.

"Oh yeah, there was a little bit of that," Eagles forward Andrew Knudsen said. "They took it to us pretty good on their rink."

After the first period, No. 9 Wayzata had a 1-0 lead and looked like a team that took down the three-time defending Lake Conference champions and section foe.

There were flurries of scoring chances, unbalanced time on the attack and just overall better play from the Trojans.

But like a team that has experienced what it takes to be a champion, the Eagles adjusted and bounced back after a disappointing start and took control of the game.

"I thought we played too tentative," Smith said. "You can't do that against a good team like Wayzata, because they will keep on coming after you."

During the intermission between the first and second periods, there wasn't a coach screaming or players pointing fingers at one another.

It was more instructional and believing in one another for the Eagles.

"We just had to play with more confidence," Smith said. "I didn't go in there and holler at them or anything.

"Sometimes you have to make adjustments and coaches have to adjust as well. As a team we did that."

Even though Wayzata came out in the second period as if there was no intermission from the first, the Eagles quickly turned the tide.

Midway through the second, Chad Dahlquist found himself in the slot, and for the first time, had a clear shot at the net and he did not miss.

"That was huge," Knudsen said. "We got one on the board and we just started playing even better than that."

"It was the first time in over four periods that we scored on him ," Smith said. "I am sure he was feeling pretty good after the first period, but if you are able to put a little doubt in his mind, it can help you out."

Not only were the Eagles getting their own chances to score, but they were eliminating any for Wayzata.

Giving the Trojans a taste of their own medicine from the first period, Eden Prairie locked down defensively and made Wayzata look like a shell of itself from earlier in the game.

Chances were gone, room to maneuver was limited the puck was constantly in the Trojans zone.

"I am very happy with how we played," Smith said. " I like how we came back after the first period and proved what we can do if we play confident.

"Wayzata is a good hockey team and they took it to us in a great first period on their part, but I liked how our team did that to them in the last two periods. I just liked how we bounced back."

In the hunt

Winning a conference title is a feat in itself, but doing so in the Lake Conference is on a whole other level.

With the 4-1 victory over Wayzata, Eden Prairie has once again, put itself in position to win the conference for the fourth consecutive season.

"We are right there to do it again," Eagles coach Lee Smith said. "That is one of the first goals that you want to accomplish as a team.

"We had a nice win over Minnetonka the other night and with a couple more, we can win the Lake Conference again."

The past three big school state champions have come from the Lake Conference with Eden Prairie winning in 2009 and 2011 and Edina in 2010.

Edina's championship was against another conference rival, Minnetonka, and the Hornets were in the title game in 2008 as well, but lost to Hill-Murray.

"It's obviously a tough conference to play in, so if you can win it, it means something," Eagles defenseman, Chad Dahlquist said. "That is our goal right now and this was a big win for us to be right there to do it again."

With all the firepower that Eden Prairie lost from its state championship team last season, the one piece that is not missing is the experience from the returning players.

"I think it goes a long way and definitely helps us," Eagles forward, Andrew Knudsen said. "We have been getting better as the season as gone on and like tonight, we got better as the game got going.

"We have players that know what it takes to win and hopefully that will help us late in the season."

There are two more big regular season game on the horizon for the Eagles as they will end it with games against Minnetonka and Edina.

If Eden Prairie is able to win out until the regular season finale against the Hornets, the home contest could be for the conference title.

"You can't ask for a better way to end the season," Knudsen said. "When we play there it's an exciting atmosphere. When it's here, it's pretty exciting, too."

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

After a tough first period, No. 6 Eden Prairie saved its best for the final period, scoring three goals just 65 seconds apart to beat Lake Conference and Section 6AA rival Wayzata 4-1.

Andrew Knudsen scored the game-winning goal from behind the net and recorded an assist on Steven Spinner's goal just eight seconds later in the third.

Eagles defenseman Luke Sudman concluded the scoring burst when he shot beat Trojan's goalie, Alec Almquist 57 seconds after.

Wayzata had a strong first period and took a 1-0 lead after the first 17 minutes of play, when Sam Majka scored a power play goal from in tight.

From the second period on, Eden Prairie went on the attack and were the more aggressive team throughout the rest of the game.

After giving up 11 shots in the first period, the Eagles only allowed 11 more for the rest of the game.

Chad Dalquist got Eden Prairie on the board and tied the game up on a wrist shot that found the upper shelf.

Eden Prairie took control of the game and got some revenge on the Trojans, who beat the Eagles 4-0 back on Jan. 21.

The win keeps the Eagles within striking distance of a Lake Conference title, which would be their fourth straight.

They own a 15-5-1 overall record (4-2-0 Lake) and are second in the conference with recent wins against No. 2 Minnetonka, Hopkins and No. 9 Wayzata.

Next up for Eden Prairie is a road game at Buffalo on Saturday, Feb. 11.

The loss drops Wayzata to 13-8-1 overall (2-3-0 Lake).

It will host the second-ranked Skippers on Saturday, Feb. 11.

1. Andrew Knudsen, Eden Prairie
His game-winner came from a place where players normally don't score, but Knudsen alertly got the puck and threw it out front where it banked off Trojan's goalie, Alec Almquist and in. He also assisted on Luke Sudman's goal just eight seconds fate, which was just the start of a scoring surge for the Eagles. Knudsen was the only player to record a multi-point night.

2. Chad Dahlquist, Eden Prairie
His goal in the second tied the game up, but more importantly gave the Eagles confidence, which grew as the game progressed. He was part of a defensive corp that shut down the Trojans powerful offensive attack that appeared as if it would have its way after the first period. There was a sudden change of momentum after his goal, which now keeps the Eagles in the conversation of another Lake Conference title.

3. Sam Majka, Wayzata
Consistently and offensive force all night, Majka scored only one goal, but created an abundance of chances on his own, or used some impressive passing skills to give his teammates a chance as well. In the final two periods, where theTrojans as a team were having problems generating scoring opportunities, Majka still had his motor running and would not give in.

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