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It was a dirty goal.

Not dirty as in cheap or unfair. Not dirty as in incredibly difficult to execute or amazing to behold.

No. Just plain dirty.

Long after Cullen Munson scored with 63 seconds left to lift No. 5 Edina to a 2-1 victory over No. 8 Wayzata on Thursday, Feb. 14, you could still see the junior forward’s body print on the as-of-yet unwashed Braemar Arena ice.

Overtime was looming as a likelihood when, all at the same time, Munson was falling, spinning, sliding and shooting. 

Pick his corner? Hardly. Munson’s back was turned and butt was on the ice when he released the puck from 10 feet in front and to the right of the Wayzata goal. 

He never saw it split a puck-sized opening between Wayata goaltender’s Aaron Dingmann’s left toe and the right post as it slid into the net. He didn’t need to. His teammates made sure of that.

“I didn’t know [I scored] until everybody started jumping on me,” Munson said. “It was awesome.”

While the game didn’t have any tangible Lake Conference significance (Minnetonka has had the outright title wrapped up for a week) or obvious section seeding implications (Edina is in Section 2AA; Wayzata in 6AA), it most certainly served as a primer for the upcoming playoffs.

“Two great teams, and it came right down to the wire, which was expected,” Munson said. “It was just like the last game when we played them, they score we score they score we score.  That’s how it happened today. 

“It’s a pretty good boost. Playoff hockey starts today.”

In a game with more blocked shots and board-rattling hits than quality scoring chances, it figured the ending would be written in equally gritty fashion. Other than Edina forward Miguel Fidler’s nifty bit of stickhandling and laser shot into an upper corner for a second-period goal that tied the score at 1, there was precious little fodder for the highlight clips. 

This matchup of teams coached by former defensemen was all about, naturally, tight defense and rock-steady goaltending. Limit the odd-man rushes. Get the puck in deep. No turnovers in the neutral zone. No big mistakes.

“This is playoff hockey now, basically,” said Edina senior goaltender Willie Benjamin. “You can’t win every game by four goals.

“The games are going to be a lot closer now. It really comes down to all those defensive battles. It’s like a more mature version of the high school game. The weaker teams starter losing out, and it comes down to who can play better defensively.”

Scoring timely goals is critical, too.

Wayzata was routinely getting the big goals at the opportune times earlier in the season when it reeled off 15 wins in its first 17 games and rose to No. 1 in the state rankings. The Trojans (17-7-0) enter Saturday’s regular season finale against Hopkins having lost five of their last seven.

“You just try to throw one at the net and see if you can get a bounce off someone’s butt or something like that,” said Wayzata coach Pat O’Leary, a former University of Minnesota defenseman. “The one-goal games are tough especially in our conference because everybody is so good. You just have to see if you can get on the better side of it when it counts.”

Edina (19-5-0) has won seven of eight heading into Saturday’s regular-season ending game against rival Eden Prairie. The Hornets’ last six games all have been decided by two goals or less.

“The biggest thing in a game like this is getting caught going forward when you should be going backwards,” said Edina coach Curt Giles, a former NHL defenseman. “Or when you should be chipping the puck in you try to make one more play.”

At the end, the mantra for both teams offensively was to simply get the puck on net. By any means necessary.

So that’s what Munson did.

“It was a fortunate goal, kind of a lucky goal,” Giles said. “But you know what, those guys (Munson and linemates Bo Brauer and Tim Spicola) worked awfully hard tonight.

“They got what they deserved.”

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

Junior forward Cullen Munson scored on a no-look shot while falling to the ice with 1 minute, 3 seconds remaining to lift No. 5-ranked Edina to a 2-1 Lake Conference victory over No. 8 Wayzata on Thursday, Feb. 14 at Braemar Arena in Edina.

Munson was being pushed away from the goal and toward the boards when he sent the puck on net while facing the wrong way, and it slid through a narrow gap between Wayzata goaltender Aaron Dingmann and the right post.

Munson’s winner capped a game highlighted by tenacious defense for both teams. Edina (19-5-0) had a 31-22 edge in shots on goal, but high-quality scoring chances were sparse and limited to just a few for each team.

Wayzata (17-7-0) scored first when an off-speed shot from Chase Haller in the high slot fooled Hornets’ goaltender Willie Benjamin and sailed between his leg pads. Haller’s goal put the Trojans ahead 1-0 just 5:54 into the first.

Edina answered just 1:36 into the second when junior forward Miguel Fidler used a nifty series of moves to create some space near the top of the left faceoff circle, then fired a wrist shot over Dingmann’s left shoulder.

The highlights were mostly limited to hard hits and blocked shots until Munson managed to get his sixth goal of the season. 

The win was Edina’s third in as many meetings with Wayzata this season.

1. Cullen Munson, Edina
The junior forward left his mark on the game – literally and figuratively. The marks of Munson’s sprawling body were left in the snow about 10 feet in front and to the right of the Wayzata goal long after the game, evidence of where he launched a most improbable winning shot with 1 minute, 3 seconds left. The goal was Munson’s sixth of the season. 

2. Tyler Nanne, Edina
The junior recently was moved back to defense after playing forward much of the year and he was instrumental in helping limit the Trojans to 22 shots and just a handful of quality opportunities.

3. Aaron Dingmann, Wayzata
The senior goaltender used his size and positioning to make his 29-save night look mostly effortless. Dingmann also did a great job of controlling his rebounds, limiting the Hornets’ chances.

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