Eden Prairie defenseman Nick Leivermann (4) celebrated after scoring the go ahead goal late in the third period Thursday night against Wayzata. Photo: Aaron Lavinsky * firstname.lastname@example.org
More than two-and-a-half periods of frustration turned into one huge sigh of relief as top-seeded Eden Prairie scored three goals in the last 6:29 of the third period to escape with a 3-1 victory over defending champion Wayzata on Thursday in the most anticipated game of the Class 2A quarterfinals.
After being stymied by Wayzata’s Reid Waszczenko time after time, Eden Prairie finally solved the senior goaltender when defenseman Noah Deraney’s slap shot from the point caromed off a Wayzata defender and over Waszczenko’s glove hand, tying the game 1-1 at 10:31 of the third period.
It was Deraney’s first goal of the season and it could not have come at a better time.
“I had a little chip on my shoulder from last year,” said Deraney, referring to Eden Prairie’s championship game loss to Wayzata in 2016. “I just wanted to contribute to my team any way I could. That was a good place to start.”
The Eagles cranked up the pressure after that and leaned on their two Mr. Hockey finalists, forward Casey Mittelstadt and defenseman Nick Leivermann, for the game-winner.
Mittelstadt took a faceoff in the Wayzata end and pulled the puck back toward Leivermann, whose low wrist shot likely deflected off traffic in front and slipped through Waszczenko’s five-hole for a 2-1 lead with 1:22 left in the third period.
Nolan Sullivan added an empty-net goal at 16:44 for the final score.
“I got lucky enough to get one through and it went in,” Leivermann said. “It was awesome.”
Mittelstadt said that, despite Waszczenko’s terrific performance, the Eagles were confident in the third period that they would find a way to score.
“We’ve kind of been a third period team all year,” he said. “It’s hard for teams to keep up with us for three periods. We’ve got a lot of character in the room and we were able to persevere.”
For more than two periods, Waszczenko appeared to be positioning himself as the next state tournament legend. He had won just one game during the regular season but was unfazed in the face Eden Prairie pressure.
“He’s been playing well for the last month,” Wayzata coach Pat O’Leary said. “His focus level over the past couple of weeks has been crazy good and he was good again tonight.”
Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith gave Waszczenko credit but told his team to keep the pressure on, feeling the Eagles would eventually score.
“Their goalie was doing such a great job and they were boxing out really well, but we just needed to keep going at ‘em,” Smith said. “We were doing the right things. We just couldn’t get it by him. But our guys rallied and they were warriors down the stretch.”
Nicky Leivermann’s sinking shot from the leftside boards slipped under the glove of Wayzata goalie Reid Waszczenko at 15:31 of the third period, lifting top-seeded Eden Prairie to a 3-1 victory over the defending Class 2A champions and into Friday’s semifinals.
Noah Deraney’s first goal of the season, a slap shot at 10:31 of the third period, ended two-and-a-half periods of frustration for Eden Prairie and tied the game 1-1. Deraney’s rising shot glanced off a Wayzata defender as Eden Prairie fans let loose with a roar that was half cheer, half relief.
Nolan Sullivan added an empty net goal at 16:44 for Eden Prairie.
For two periods, Waszczenko was the best player on the ice in the game’s most important position. The senior, who won just one game during the regular season but was undefeated in section play, stymied Eden Prairie’s potent offense, stopping numerous chances the Eagles had while they were perched on his doorstep.
The Trojans took a 1-0 lead 55 seconds into the second period when Grant Anderson picked up a puck just inside the Eden Prairie blue line and let rip with a laser-guided wrist shot that sailed over the glove of Eden Prairie goalie Nick Wiencek.
It was one of the few chances Wayzata had in the period as Eden Prairie had possession of the puck for most of the period, putting 12 shots on Waszczenko, who turned them all away.
Check back later for more on the game.