Apple Valley goaltener Aaron Gretz, left, is sent sprawling after a collision with Eagan's Nick Kuchera. Photo by Helen Nelson
Apple Valley defenseman Vince Pedrie celebrates after scoring to tieing goal against Eagan in the third period. Photo by Helen Nelson
There he was, Hudson Fasching, alone in the slot with the puck on his stick and an opening in the net in front of him.
Sounds like a sure goal.
Did we mention there was about 20 seconds left in overtime?
“I threw my clipboard, I thought we lost the game,” Eagan coach Mike Taylor said after watching in disbelief as the Apple Valley scoring wizard flexed his stick and rolled his wrists before launching the puck at the net. “First, you don’t want to leave it there, then for sure you don’t want to leave it to that kid.”
Inexplicably, the puck hit the post and ricocheted harmlessly into the corner.
No. 10-ranked (Class 2A) Eagan, after racing to a three-goal lead in the first period, escaped with a 3-3 tie with Apple Valley on Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Apple Valley Sports Arena.
“We’re going to skate him until he pukes for missing that one,” Apple Valley coach Jerry Hayes said, kiddingly, of course, about Fasching, a smooth-skating, slick-stickhandling, 6-foot-2, 190-pound sophomore who has caught the attention of most top Division I programs. “Hudson, nine out of 10 times, is going to put that one in the net.
“This is the one, that means we’ve got nine other ones coming, hopefully, that he will score.”
Eagan's Brady Loew beats Apple Valley goaltender Aaron Gretz with a shot in the first period. Photo by Helen Nelson
While the hockey was intense, especially in a thrilling overtime period, the mood afterward was remarkably light. While their players were showerin and changing into their street clothes, Hayes and Taylor chatted for a few minutes next to door to the Zamboni room.
No sense in getting stressed out over a tie. Players from both teams certainly weren’t too upset – or excited – about the outcome.
The Wildcats won the first matchup between the South Suburban Conference rivals 4-2 on Jan. 6, and there’s a strong likelihood these teams will be seeded No. 1 (Eagan) and No. 2 (Apple Valley) in the Section 3AA playoffs.
A meeting in the section championship game, with a trip to the state tournament on the line, would be the only outcome that really matters.
“Last year, we played them twice and beat them twice, then we played them in sections and, lucky for them, they beat us,” said Eagan junior Michael Zajac, who scored twice on Saturday. “That just made the fire burn even hotter this year.”
Apple Valley junior A.J. Michaelson scored twice in the Eagles' 3-3 tie with Eagan. Photo by Helen Nelson
Apple Valley junior A.J. Michaelson, who also scored twice on Saturday, said he enjoys matching up against Eagan more than any other team.
“It’s been a big rivalry ever since we were Squirts,” Michaelson said. “It has always been a good game -- close.
“Those are the funnest games. I’d love playing them every night.”
Eagan dominated the first period, when, at one point, it had 12 shots on goal to one for the Eagles.
“We were fortunate to only be down 3-0.” Hayes said. “Sometimes the Zamboni is your best friend.”
Michaelson scored both his goals in a second period controlled by the Eagles. Apple Valey defenseman Vince Pedrie tied it with 4:53 left in the third.
“I think it shows that if one team doesn’t show up to play, the other team can drill ’em,” Taylor said. “You’ve got to be focused when you play them.
“I think it sets us up for the next one. I think it shows how equal we are.”
Zajac and fellow Wildcats scoring standout Will Merchant each had prime scoring chances in overtime, not long before Fasching had his oh-so-close moment.
“I thought he was going to bury it,” Michaelson said. “The left corner was open, he made a nice shot. We’ll get it in the sections, hopefully.”
Eagan defenseman Sam Wolfe (10) and Wildcats goaltender Tommy Bodeker find themselves in awkward positions as the net flies off its moorings. Photo by Helen Nelson
Junior defenseman Vince Pedrie scored with 4 minutes, 53 seconds left in regulation as Apple Valley rallied from a three-goal deficit after the first period to tie South Suburban Conference and Section 3AA rival Eagan 3-3 on Saturday, Feb. 5, at Apple Valley Sports Arena.
Pedrie’s goal came on a floater from the blue line that sailed through heavy traffic in front and beat screened Eagan goaltender Tommy Bodeker.
Both teams’ top scorers has quality scoring chances in the overtime period. Will Merchant and Michael Zajac, who scored twice in the first period for No. 10-ranked Class 2A Eagan, each had point-blank shots on Eagles goaltender Aaron Gretz.
With about 20 seconds left, standout Eagles sophomore Hudson Fasching found himself alone in the slot with the puck, and his shot toward the open upper left corner rattled off the goal post.
Apple Valley junior A.J. Michaelson scored twice in the second period for the Eagles (14-6-1), and Brady Loew also scored in the first period for Eagan (14-5-2).
The victory all but assures Eagan of the top seed in the Section 3AA playoffs, while Apple Valley will most likely be the No. 2 seed. Apple Valley beat Eagan in the section semifinals last season en route to its appearance at the state Class 2A tournament.
Gretz and Bodeker each finished with 24 saves.
1. A.J. Michaelson, Apple Valley
The junior didn’t have an abundance of scoring chances, but he buried the puck when he did have some room to operate. The University of Minnesota recruits two goals and an assist give him a team-leading 52 points this season (25 goals, 27 assists).
2. Michael Zajac, Eagan
Another ultra-talented junior, Zajac scored twice and hit everything that moved as he pounded away at the Eagles with his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame. He has 38 points (18 goals, 20 assists) to share the team scoring lead.
3. Vince Pedrie, Apple Valley
The junior defenseman scored to force overtime in the third period and added two assists. After a shaky first period for the Eagles and their defensive corps, Pedrie and his teammates did a much better job of breaking Eagan’s aggressive forecheck.
Eagan's Michael Zajac. Photo by Helen Nelson