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Eagan celebrates its fourth straight South St. Paul Premier tournament title with a shootout victory over Hermantown. The game will officially be recorded as a 5-5 tie, but the trophy is the Wildcats again. Photos by Tim Kolehmainen.

Zach Glienke (27) of Eagan celebrates his second-period goal that cut the Hermantown lead to 5-3.

Zach Glienke (27) of Eagan celebrates his second-period goal that cut the Hermantown lead to 5-3.

The game was officially recorded as a tie, but it sure felt like victory for Eagan.

After the Wildcats rallied from a five-goal deficit to beat Hermantown in a shootout in the South St. Paul Premier Tournament championship, they celebrated like any victor – hoisting the tournament’s golden trophy over their heads and lining up for team photos on the ice, cheering and laughing off it. The mood was more somber on the Hermantown side, as players quietly filed out of Wakota Arena with their heads held down. Hawks’ coach Bruce Plante sat on a bench outside the locker room well after the game, trying to process how it got away.

Yes, the result may have officially been a tie, but one team was clearly in the mood to celebrate it.

“We’ve had tough games here every year,” said an elated Wildcats’ coach Mike Taylor, noting last year’s 3-2 title victory over Woodbury, a game Eagan trailed in the third period. “I don’t know. Once in a while you’ve got the horseshoe. Maybe we have it for a while.”

Eagan’s victory was its fourth straight title in South St. Paul, including victories over Hopkins in 2009 and the host Packers in 2010. But it certainly didn’t follow the script.

It wasn’t Taylor’s plan to spot Hermantown a five-goal lead early in the second period. The Hawks scored three times on a five-minute major penalty to Eagan’s Peter Zibley and appeared ready to cruise to victory. But Taylor called his team together in the locker room during the first intermission.

“I told them they’re either going to wilt and it’s going to be an early night. Or they’re going to fight back,” said Taylor. “But they can only fight back if they do it together.”

Senior forward Zach Glienke, who ended the game with a goal in the fourth round of the shootout, joked that Taylor’s speech may have been a bit more colorful than that.

“I can’t repeat any of it,” laughed Glienke.

Taylor explained a bit further.

“All we talked about is that in the first period we played as individuals. After the first, we went over that adversity and (how it) would introduce us to what type of group we are. It’s really easy to cheer and high-five for each other when you’re lighting someone up.

“It’s a little different when you’re getting lit.”

And the Wildcats certainly were getting lit up.

After the fifth goal, Taylor didn’t have to say much. His leaders -- including captains Glienke, Cullen Willox, Nick Smallidge and Will Peterson – led the way with their actions. Smallidge, Glienke and Willox scored in a span of 4:04 late in the second period to jumpstart the Wildcats’ rally.

“The older guys are taking on almost a mentoring role,” said Taylor. “They’re helping the younger guys because they know it’s best for the team. And you saw the result tonight.”

Glienke admitted the team had more energy in the second period. And once the goals started coming, the avalanche rolled on.

“We got some confidence and we just found out all we had to do was what they were doing to us -- throw the puck on net, crashing for rebounds and getting some goals.”


Hermantown's Zach Kramer (13) eyes up Tommy Muck (2) of Eagan.

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Eagan won its fourth consecutive South St. Paul Premier Tournament title with a shootout victory over Hermantown Friday, Dec. 28 at Wakota Arena. Zack Glienke scored in the fourth round of the shootout, setting off a spirited – if somewhat delayed – celebration from the Wildcats.

The game will go in the books as a 5-5 tie, but the championship trophy was awarded to Eagan (8-2-1) in the post game ceremonies, while Hermantown (8-1-1) looked on disappointedly. Eagan had rallied from a 5-0 second period deficit to tie the game.

For the first half of the game, Hermantown was rolling, particularly on the power play. The Hawks scored three times during a five-minute major to Eagan’s Peter Zibley that spanned the first and second periods, stretching out its lead to five.

The top line of Travis Koepke, Chris Benson and Bo Gronseth was involved in all five goals. Koepke started the outburst with a goal, then assisted on two Jake Zeleznikar blasts from the point in the final 1:04 of the first. He finished with a goal and three assists, while Zeleznikar had two goals and two assists.

But Eagan wasn’t finished. Not by a long shot.

The Wildcats scored four times in the final 6:53 of the second period, including Jesse Gabrielle’s goal with 1.7 seconds remaining, to cut the lead to 5-4 entering the third. Nick Smallidge started the rally with a snapper from just inside the blue line. Glienke and Cullen Willox also had goals.

Zach Schultz tied it up just 1:14 into the third period for Eagan.

Hermantown outshot the Wildcats, 49-38, but Andrew Lindgren stopped 44 in goal. Adam Smith had 33 saves for the Hawks.

1. Zach Glienke, Eagan
Gleinke officially had a goal and an assist in a 5-5 tie, but he gained the South St. Paul Premier Tournament trophy for his team by burying a goal in the fourth round of the shootout. The senior forward was a key reason the Wildcats were able to rally from a five-goal deficit, with his calm – and huge – presence on the ice.

2. Andrew Lindgren, Eagan
After facing a barrage of shots all game long, Lindgren must have been shellshocked. But it was tough to tell from his play over the final 39 minutes, when he didn’t allow a goal on the final 30 shots he saw. Lindgren shook off a tough start to keep the Wildcats in the game.

3. Travis Koepke, Hermantown
Koepke and his linemates (Chris Benson, Bo Gronseth) started the game off with a bang, getting involved in all five Hermantown goals over the first 20 minutes. He opened the scoring just 3:46 in on a terrific passing play, then assisted on the final three Hawks’ tallies.

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