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Eden Prairie players celebrate an Eagles goal during the second period Thursday night against Elk River (Marlin Levison, Star Tribune)

The score was tied in the third period of the most anticipated game of the season, and Eden Prairie senior Steven Spinner, a featured Mr. Hockey candidate who has committed to play at Nebraska-Omaha, was flashing in on a breakaway.

A worst-case scenario if ever there was one for Elk River, which entered Thursday’s Edina Holiday Classic game at Braemar Ice Arena with an undefeated record and No. 2 state ranking but lost 3-1 to the No. 3 Eagles thanks in large part to the clutch play of Spinner.

Spinner said he was thinking deke the whole way, but at the last moment felt the pressure of an Elks backchecker and decided instead to shoot.  That’s more rotten luck for Elk River, as Spinner possesses a cannon shot and marksman’s aim.

“It’s pretty deadly,” Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said about Spinner’s shot. “He usually dekes, but when he wants to go to the net like that he can score. He can shoot. 

“He was off early in the year, and he was pretty frustrated. He had to get his timing down, and now he looks like he’s back to his old self.”

The goal, Spinner whipped the puck over Elk River goaltender Maclean Berglove’s catching glove and inside the left goalpost for his fourth of the year, powered No. 3 Eden Prairie past the Elks (5-1) and allowed the Eagles (6-0) to maintain their status as one of the state’s last unbeaten teams.

“Wow, that was impressive,” Eden Prairie senior defenseman Luc Snuggerud said about Spinner’s game-turning shorthanded goal that put the Eagles ahead 2-1 with 13:27 left in the third. “He’s a good player, isn’t he? He’s special.”

Snuggerud, who also has committed to play at Nebraska-Omaha, opened the scoring in the second period when he fired a wrist shot from the point through a traffic jam of players in front, and the puck sailed past a screened Berglove.

“I’m pretty sure it tipped off one of their guys knee, so it’s good puck luck I guess,” Snuggerud said. 

Eden Prairie played without a top defenseman in Andy Aguilar and leading scorer Riley Argetsinger (serving a one-game suspension) but still dominated play for long stretches in the second and third periods.

Reggie Lutz scored in the second period for Elk River, and Jack Sullivan added an empty net goal for the Eagles with 1:02 left in the third.

The Elks and Eagles were two of just five undefeated and untied teams statewide entering Thursday night, and the only other team without a loss or tie in Class 2A was Hill-Murray.

-- Loren Nelson

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