Eden Prairie, Mn-It was an old fashioned slobber-knocker in every way possible as the Edina Hornets rode the crest of goalie Connor Girard's 36 save shutout to a 3-0 win over the Eden Prairie Eagles. As is the norm with Lake Conference games, the Eden Prairie Community Center was at capacity as the intensity crescendoed through the third period that featured three Edina goals, some huge saves, and a fight to close out the contest.
Through two periods two of the top players in the state were on display as Eagle center Kyle Rau and Edina defenseman Max Everson engaged in a personal one on one battle that saw Rau ring two pucks off the post and be kept off the scoresheet for the second time against Edina and third time for the season.
"It was fun," Everson said of his war with Rau. "You just have to be ready for anything with him. When he's got speed and hands like that, nothing is out of reach for him whether he is just going to shoot it and put it in from the outside or if he is going try to beat you through the middle. You just have to be prepared, make sure you are in good position have you head on a swivel all of that, just basics and make sure it is all solid before you can go from there."
Jake Sampson scored the game's first goal with about 6 minutes left in the third period as he had a pass hit his shin, hit Eagle goalie Andrew Ford in the pad, and bounce on his stick for a rebound goal and the all important 1-0 lead.
Sampson has been on a point string of late as he has collected 8 points in his last 6 games. He attributed his success to his newly formed line mates and said, "Playing with Michael Sit and Steven Fogarty helps," Sampson said. "I think we click pretty well. We grew up together, played together the whole time together and move the puck well."
Ben Walker, who brought his usual energy and speed to the game, scored the Hornets second goal of the period and game with a little over two minutes remaining in the contest to put significant pressure on the Eagles hopes of a win. It was a back breaking goal to an Eagle team that was on the puck for the better of the hockey game. They maintained possession of the puck and battled through an impressive forecheck that handcuffed the Hornets on the breakout the entire game.
The story was about the play of Edina goalie Connor Girard who was sharp, on angle, and suffocating on his rebound control. As head coach Curt Giles said when Girard is on, he makes it look easy. The Eagles did not have many opportunities down low around the Edina goal mouth as the Hornet defense and forwards packed it in and kept the Eagles off Girard.
"The defense helped me out there," Girard said. "They let me see the puck and kept the guys to the outside. When you do that, the rebounds take care of themselves."
The first period began with a Hornet flurry that slowly fell into the hands of the Eagles. The special teams began to take precedence as eight penalties were called, and the Eagles lost forwards Mason Bergh and Des Shavlik from the first period on.
"We lose two guys so we are down to eight forwards for the first period then we've got penalties to kill," Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said. "So, we have to over play the Raths, Rau and Gerdes. What do you say? You give Edina credit, they were opportunistic, they played well defensively, we didn't get many second shot opportunities and that is what they do well."
The game boiled over after the Hornets had taken the third period 3-0 lead on an empty net goa with just under two minutes leftl. A major fight broke out that involved Edina's Micheal Sit and Eden Prairie's Dan Molenaar. They were given a gift as major penalties were not assessed and very well could have been. Eden Prairie's Jack McCarten was assessed a fighting major and game misconduct that forces him to miss the next Eagles game.
"That's too bad," Giles said in reference to the fight at the end of the game. "They are competitive kids, they work hard sometimes frustrations get to a certain level where sometimes stuff like that happens. It is too bad that had to happen but nobody got hurt."
The Eagles group of seniors who were effective at the youth levels against Edina have not won in five tries against the Hornets in their three years of high school hockey. Two games have lead to major fighting skirmishes and intense play this year and the Eagles have one more chance in regular season play to come up with a win over the Hornets.