In a league filled with marksmen, guys who spend hours honing high-velocity, insanely accurate shots, goaltenders easily can go from central character to afterthought with a flick of the wrist.
Edina senior Connor Girard (pictured) says he doesn’t mind facing the avalanche of rubber. Shoot, he figures that’s the best part about being a goaltender in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League.
“This is a great league,” the Team Southwest goaltender said. “You see a lot of shots. I think that will be the thing that helps me out the most, just seeing so many shots.”
Girard faced 43 shots during Team Southwest’s 4-3 victory over league-leading Team Northwest on Tuesday, Sept. 28, and none of his 40 saves were more dramatic than the one he made on Pat Steinhauser of Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the final minute.
“The guy shot it from the point, and then there was a guy in front,” said Girard, who led the Hornets to the state Class AA championship last season. “He kind of chipped it to the guy back door. I was a little out of position, because I didn’t see the guy back door until the pass was made.”
At that point, Girard went into full scramble mode. That meant diving, doing the splits and throwing everything he could think of at the puck.
“In that situation, you have to just try to get as much of your body in front of it as you can,” he said.
Girard’s sprawling glove save of Steinhauser’s shot touched off an explosion of cheers on the Team Southwest bench.
“Oh my gosh,” Team Southwest defenseman Dan Molenaar of Eden Prairie said. “We were all looking down because we figured that is in the back of the net.
“He reaches his glove out. We were going nuts. The bench was going nuts. He saved the game for us on that last save.”
1. Connor Girard, Team Southwest
The Edina senior had the New Hope Ice Arena crowd buzzing and left Team Northwest’s Pat Steinhauser of Benilde-St. Margaret’s doubled over in disbelief when, in the final minute, Girard made a sprawling glove-hand save of a Steinhauser shot that needed just a few more inches before it crossed the goal line. The unlikely stop capped a brilliant 40-save performance by Girard that was most notable for his impeccable positioning and ability to control rebounds.
2. Kyle Rau, Team Southwest
The Eden Prairie senior scored the game-winning goal and notched an assist. Playing on a highly effective line with Edina’s Michael Sit and Steven Fogarty, Rau displayed his playmaking skills along with his usual tenacity around the net.
3. Pat Steinhauser, Team Northwest
The senior from Benilde-St. Margaret’s had an assist and came inches from scoring the game-tieing goal. He was involved in several other near-miss plays despite losing usual linemate Tim Bonner of Osseo for the final two periods due to Bonner's shoulder injury.
Other than unloading a shot that rang off the post and echoed loudly in New Hope Arena, Wayzata junior Mario Lucia (pictured) had a mostly uneventful game for Team Northwest in its 4-3 Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League loss to Team Southeast on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
Still, Lucia’s day remained a memorable one. Newsworthy, too.
The 17-year-old forward received word on Tuesday that he would join the U.S. National Under-18 team over the weekend.
Lucia’s dad, Don Lucia, head coach of the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team, broke the news to his son.
“My dad literally just told me today and said they would probably give me a call sometime this week,” Mario Lucia said.
The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Lucia will be hopping on a plane to join the team at some point this week but, as of Tuesday night, his travel plans were unknown.
“I’m flying out either (Wednesday) or Friday,” Lucia said. “I don’t know where, to be honest. They play Denver and (Colorado College) so maybe I’ll fly out to Colorado.”
Lucia will join Edina’s Max Everson, a senior who plays for Team Southwest in the Elite League, as a temporary member of the national team. Lucia said he was humbled by the invitation but said he’s not sure how long he will be playing with the national team.
“I’ll be there for the weekend and then maybe play (on Oct. 12) when they play Michigan,” said Lucia, who has six goals and six assists in 10 Elite League games. “I’ll be there over the weekend, and then I gotta come back for school because I can’t miss too many days.”
School might not be the only thing Lucia misses while playing for U.S. team. He will miss time from a team that sits in first place in the Elite League and features Wayzata teammate and friend Tony Cameranesi.
Cameranesi leads the Elite League in scoring with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists). He also led Wayzata last year in scoring with 45 points (16 goals, 29 assists) as a junior. Lucia, playing on a line with Cameranesi, had 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists).
As far as his future, Cameranesi didn’t indulge into what schools he was talking to but said he had spoken to a couple schools that have shown interest. Right now, however, it’s all about the Elite League.
“As far as colleges go I’m waiting it out and see what happens,” Cameranesi said. “Just focusing on the Elite League and trying to play the best I can.”
Lucia and Cameranesi have been playing together on the same line for Team Northwest.
“Me and Tony go way back,” Lucia said. “We’ve been together since Triple A’s, and Squirt A’s we were together and playing on the same line. It’s nice to get a mesh together, and he’s like my brother basically out there on the ice.”
The pair from Wayzata will separate for the weekend’s Elite Games, however.
“It will be a little different since we’ve been playing together for so long,” Cameranesi said. “We’ll miss him. He’s a great player.”
-- Mike Murakami, Hockey Hub staff
Kyle Rau of Eden Prairie scored what proved to be the winning goal midway through the third period, and goaltender Connor Girard of Edina made a spectacular save in the closing minute as Team Southwest hung on to beat Team Northwest 4-3 in an Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League matchup on Tuesday, Sept. 28, at New Hope Arena in New Hope.
Max Coatta of Minnetonka sent Rau in alone on Team Northwest goaltender Anders Franke of Elk River by threading a pass through heavy traffic from the side boards. Rau, a senior who will be a top candidate for Mr. Hockey during the high school season, finished the play with a quick deke that fooled Franke and left Rau with an empty net.
Rau’s goal gave Team Southwest a 4-1 lead with 11 minutes, 23 seconds remaining, but league-leading Team Northwest (7-2-0) rallied on goals by T.J. Roo of Totino-Grace and Eli May of Eagan in the final half of the third period.
With 54 seconds left, Girard, a senior who led Edina to the state Class AA championship last season, slid across the crease and made a last-second glove hand snare of a shot by Team Northwest’s Pat Steinhauser of Benilde-St. Margaret’s.
Derek Frawley of Minnetonka, Ryan Bullock of Blake and Steven Fogarty of Edina also scored for Team Southwest (3-5-1).
Defenseman Jake Horton of Benilde-St. Margaret’s scored a power-play goal for Team Northwest.
Girard finished with 40 saves while Franke stopped 41 shots.