Lakeville North has reached the state tournament six times in team history -- three of which were as Lakeville. The Panthers have lost their quarterfinal game each time.
This year's group would like to change that.
Fresh off thumping rival Lakeville South 6-3 in the section championship, momentum and confidence is emanating from the Panthers. Instead of looking like the team that dropped four in a row heading into the playoffs, they're hoping to play like their Lakeville South counterparts did in last season's state tourney when they shocked the state by upsetting a highly-skilled and no. 1 ranked Duluth East team.
Edina and Lakeville North have never met in the state tournament and have practically zero history playing each other. A blank slate could benefit the Panthers who went 1-1 against Eden Prairie -- their only Lake Conference opponent -- in two close games this year.
The odds may not favor Lakeville North, but anything is possible when you're an underdog with nothing to lose.
-- Walker Orenstein
FORWARDS: Junior Tristen Hazlett, senior Jack Diercks, and sophomore Nick Poehling account for most of the Panthers' points, making their forwards a bit one-dimensional. That doesn't mean Lakeville North's offense isn't dangerous. Lakeville North tore apart rival Lakeville South in the section championship with six goals, flashing its potential in crunch time. The Panthers' secondary contributors -- Jack Poehling and Connor Hyden -- could also cause havoc if they step up under the spotlight.
DEFENSE: The Panthers have a tendency to let things snowball, giving up goals in bunches against squads that can move the puck. In other words: When they lose, it's usually big. A mix of seniors and sophomores, Lakeville North's defensemen will need to be steadier than they have been to produce any upsets.
GOALTENDING: Lakeville North splits time between three goalies, but junior Will Dupont claims the crease in the most important games. With a save percentage of .901 and a squeaky clean 1.67 goals against average during the section playoffs, Dupont's steady hand will anchor the Panthers.
Second-year coach Trent Eigner is batting .500 on tournament appearances and has reached the Section 1AA finals in both of his seasons. Not bad considering the team has a 25-30-1 record with Eigner at the helm. Maybe he is talented at winning high-pressure games -- a necessary trait at the Xcel Energy Center. Eigner had a 14-year career after high school including four years with Miami University in Ohio and five years with the El Paso Buzzards of the WPHL.
It's tough to see the Panthers orchestrating a first round upset of Edina. Since their defense won't do much to bottle up the Hornets, if their offense can show up and can keep pace they may have hope.
Conference: South Suburban
2012-13 Records: 11-16-1
State trips: 2002, 03, 04 (as Lakeville), 2006, 10, 11, 13
Coach: Trent Eigner
Assistants: Ryan Kraft, Brad Defauw, Bob Altavilla, Matt Lundin
Home arena: Ames Arena, Lakeville
Last season: Lost to Lakeville South in Section 1AA final, 7-1