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'Rau factor' lifts Eagles to state title

03/31/2011, 10:00pm CDT
By Star Tribune and Hockey Hub staff

Kyle Rau scores in third OT as Eden Prairie beats Duluth East in Class 2A thriller


A diving Kyle Rau of Eden Prairie directs the puck toward the goal. It eventually bounced off the post and into the net off the skate of Duluth East defenseman Andrew Kerr (3). Photo by Helen Nelson


Eden Prairie's Kyle Rau jumped through the air in celebration, followed by his teammates, after he scored the winning goal in the third overtime against Duluth East. Photo by Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

It all happened so fast.

A shot from the point, the puck squeezing through the goaltender’s legs then slowly skidding through the side of crease, a player seemingly coming out of nowhere, diving headfirst and knocking it toward an empty net.

Pandemonium.

The longest championship game in the state tournament's 67-year history -- 80 minutes, 43 seconds of elapsed time -- was over.

Eden Prairie defeated Duluth East 3-2 in triple overtime on Saturday, March 12, to win the state Class 2A title for the second time in three years.

But how?

Or, more importantly, by whom?

As the mob scene of Eden Prairie players celebrating along the boards grew larger and larger, obscuring the hero racing and leaping along the glass, thousands of fans at the Xcel Energy Center turned to each other and wondered aloud who had just ended a game for the ages.

It was natural question. And, as it turns out, a silly one.

But of course.

Kyle Rau.

“I mean, if anyone was going to score in overtime, it’d be him,” Eden Prairie senior Dan Molenaar said. “I think everybody knows that.”


Kyle Rau scored five goals in the state tournament, including the winner in triple overtime against Duluth East. Photo by Helen Nelson

Rau scored after a slap shot by his twin brother, Curt, tricked through Duluth East senior JoJo Jeanetta’s leg pads. The puck spun in the crease until the diving Rau made contact with it. It hit the left goalpost and bounced straight back in front of the goal. Replays show Rau's stick about to hit the puck a second time when it glanced into the net off Duluth East defenseman Andrew Kerr’s skate.

Rau's goal capped one of the greatest careers in state high school history and will be required footage for every forthcoming "best of" state tournament highlight reel.

“They have the best player in high school hockey, Mr Hockey in my mind, (and he) scored the winner,” Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said about Rau, who finished the season with 41 goals and 40 assists. “I have nothing but respect for that kid. He could go anywhere he wanted, and he stayed in high school hockey.

“And he got rewarded tonight.”

During a Sunday in mid November, on the eve of the start of the high school season, Rau told his family and texted friends that he would not be playing for the Eagles. Instead, he had decided to play for the USHL team in Sioux Falls, S.D.
 
“I let him make his own decision,” said Curt, seated directly to the right of his brother during a postgame media seasion. “He came to me for advice. I said, 'It is all up to you, it’s what you feel in your heart.' ”

“Great brother,” interjected Kyle.

“And so when he came to me and told me he was leaving I didn’t question him at all,” continued Curt. “I just said, ‘Good luck. Have the best year. We’ll be rooting for you. We’ll be making some trips.’ ”

The following day, Kyle had a change of heart. The first call he made to break the news he was staying at Eden Prairie went to Curt.

“Me and then my mother,” Curt said. “When he called me and said he was coming back, it was probably one of the greatest moments. I think I had a couple of tears rolling down.”

Kyle had a gash on his chin and bruises around his neck, the residue of a game that, for the 5-foot-9, 160-pound center, might as well have been pinball as much as it was hockey.


Duluth East's Jake Randolph, left, and Eden Prairie's Kyle Rau fight for position. Photo by Helen Nelson

“I’ll be feeling it in the morning, but it’s still worth it,” said Rau, a Mr. Hockey candidate who will play for the University of Minnesota next season. “I’ll have a scar I’ll always remember.”

Rau, who has scored two goals in each of the Eagles' previous two state tournament games, was leveled on numerous occasions, most notably by Kerr, a sophomore who dished out several devastating hits.

In a dramatic twist of fate, it ws Kerr and Rau crossing paths again on the game's final play. Kerr attempted to knock the puck out of the crease, and partially whiffed, just before the sliding Rau arrived.

"I kind of fed him a sucker pass when that No. 3 (Kerr) hit him,” Curt said. “I felt kind of bad for that one.

“He’s a warrior. He keeps fighting. It makes you proud to be his brother.”

The winning goal in triple overtime of a state title game? If Kyle Rau is playing, Kyle Rau is scoring it.

Rau scored in double overtime against Wayzata in the Section 6AA championship game. He also scored with 5 seconds left in overtime to beat Class 1A runner-up Hermantown during the regular season.

“He’s done that countless times,” Curt Rau said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better end to the season.”

-- Loren Nelson, Hockey Hub


From left, Eden Prairie co-captains Dan Molenaar, Kyle Rau and Curt Rau are awarded the Class 2A championship trophy. Photo by Helen Nelson

Ford big part of Eagles' two championship drives

Through the two championship seasons Eden Prairie has had in a span of three years, the Eagles have had some roster turnover.

At one of the most pressured and magnified positions in the sport, one constant has been goalie Andrew Ford, who ended his senior season with his 19th win, leading the Eagles to the state Class 2A state championship over Duluth East on Saturday, March 12, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Allowing just three goals in the tournament, Ford was a steady force for No. 1 seed Eden Prairie once again, this time, in the longest championship game in tournament history.

“Andrew was seeing the puck well,” Eagles coach Lee Smith said. “Nothing was coming back off of him.”

A rarity to have a sophomore starting, Ford backstopped the Eagles to the state title in 2009 and recalled the aura of the Xcel Energy Center when he first stepped on the ice.

“Sophomore year, I was kind of in awe of everything,” he said. “This year, I was more ready for everything. Played in Pee Wee and Bantam tournaments, but it didn’t compare to the magnitude that this is.”

After the Eagles were knocked out in the section playoffs to Minnetonka last season, Ford had one more chance at the rare opportunity to be a starting goalie with two state championships.


Eden Prairie goaltender Andrew Ford owns the school record for career victories with 49. Photo by Helen Nelson

He backed that up with 29 saves in triple overtime against the Greyhounds.

“I don’t know how many high school goalies in their history have won two titles,” Smith said. “Quite an accomplishment for a goaltender to have one let alone two.”

If Ford and the Eagles were going to grasp the state title once again, they would have to overcome a tough, perhaps fluke goal that went against them.

Duluth East forward Trevor Olson scored the second of his two goals when he fired a shot that Ford made the initial save on.

However, he was helpless as the puck fluttered in the air over his head and fell innocently into the net amidst his teammates diving to knock it out.

Being down 2-1 in the third, Ford remained calm and did not add extra pressure to himself. He remained patient and waited for his team to tie the game.

“Never know when our team is going to put one in the net,” he said. “Fortunate that my guys found a way to get one. You can never get down.”

Even though Ford faced more shots in the overtime periods than his counterpart at the other end, JoJo Jeanetta, he was confident that his team would find a way to win.

“Once we got that tying goal late in the third I could tell we were definitely going to take it,” he said. “It just clicked after that.”
Eden Prairie was able to remain aggressive, not only in trying to tie the game, but in the overtime periods as well, which eventually ended when Kyle Rau dove to beat a Duluth East player to the puck and knocked in the championship goal.

Ford’s play over the past three seasons have led to two state championships and a section final. The Eagles have not had much to worry about during his career in the crease.

“He’s steady and won’t give up that goal puts everyone back on their heels, because you shouldn’t give it up,” Smith said. “Our guys can always play on their toes because he’s there to bail us out.”

During his three years in an Eagles uniform, Ford compiled a 49-10-2 record, highlighted by a 16-1-0 stint in 2009. He was 19-4-2 this season with a 2.27 goals against, .900 save-percentage and four shutouts.

Over his career, there haven’t been many times, if at all, his play has been in question.

“I don’t think in the three years that I have coached him that I can count five bad goals that really went in on him,” Smith said.

-- Justin Magill, Hockey Hub contributor


Andrew Ford made 29 saves in Eden Prairie's Class 2A state championship victory over Duluth East. Photo by Helen Nelson

'Hounds not to be forgotten

It’s often said that history never remembers the loser.

History will make an exception this time.
 
In the longest game in the history of the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament championship, top-seeded Eden Prairie claimed a 3-2 triple overtime victory over third-seeded Duluth East. The two powerhouse programs traded punches for 80 minutes, 43 seconds before Kyle Rau ended it with a diving poke that bounced off the post, off defenseman Andrew Kerr’s skate and into the ‘Hounds net.
 
“Somebody had to win and somebody had to lose,” said Duluth East coach Mike Randolph after the game. “We’re the loser, but we’re not losers.
 
“I think they’ll remember the Greyhounds."

Duluth East junior Dom Toninato takes a spill against Eden Prairie. Photo by Helen Nelson

So will a battered Eden Prairie team. Rau’s chin was bloodied and bruised in the post-game media conference, but he had nothing but respect for the effort East gave. Twice the ‘Hounds took a one goal lead on Eden Prairie. Twice the Eagles rallied to tie it. And into the night the game ran on.
 
“That’s all you can ask, that your kids lay it all on the line,” Randolph said.
 
During his 23 years, Randolph and the ‘Hounds have been involved in several of the most memorable games in state tournament history. They won titles in 1995 and 1998 and finished as runners-up in 1991, 1997 and 2000. But it was a Class 2A state semifinal game in 1996 that most came to mind Saturday night, as history provided a harsh bit of symmetry.
 
Former Greyhounds’ star Dave Spehar, who as a senior lost a memorable five-overtime state semifinal to Apple Valley in 1996 -- a game that remains the longest in state tournament history -- addressed the team before Saturday night’s tilt.
 
“He talked a little bit about how it was a great opportunity for them,” relayed Randolph. “He really did a nice job of telling the kids to enjoy the moment. ‘Don’t think you’ll ever get back here again and just give it your all. It’s something you’ll never forget the rest of your life.’ ”
 
Neither Randolph nor Spehar – nor the rest of the hockey-crazed state – forgets that 1996 game. Neither will this year’s Duluth East team be relegated to history’s dust bin, forgotten by time. Saturday night’s game will surely continue on in the lore of the tournament, as will the ‘Hounds place in it.
 
-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA

Duluth East players collapse to the ice after losing to Eden Prairie in triple overtime. Photo by Helen Nelson

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Game Recap

A diving, rebound goal from Kyle Rau gave Eden Prairie a 3-2 victory at 4:43 of the third overtime period of Saturday’s Class 2A boys’ hockey championship game at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Saturday marked the first time in 67 years of the state tournament that a championship game went to three overtime periods.

The last big-school or one-class championship game to be decided in overtime was in 1989 when Bloomington Jefferson beat Rochester John Marshall.

In addition, the Greyhounds and Eagles needed overtime to decide their regular season meeting, a 4-3 Greyhounds victory.

Saturday’s state championship is Eden Prairie’s second in three seasons. The bulk of the Eagles’ seniors on the ice Saturday played key roles in winning the 2009 title.

Standout Eden Prairie forward Kyle Rau scored twice in the third period of the first Duluth East game. On Saturday, he was held off the scoresheet until the final moment.

He dived to get a stick on the rebound of his twin brother Curt’s shot from the point. The puck got behind goaltender JoJo Jeanetta and Rau won the race to the puck, getting his stick on it and knocking it over the goal line.

Eden Prairie’s other set of twin brothers, David and Mark Rath, forced overtime with third-period goals.

Eden Prairie’s David Rath tied the score 2-2 at 14:04 of the third period.

Defenseman Nick Seeler shot a puck from the point that Duluth East Jeanetta couldn’t control.

Rath reached around Jeanetta and stuffed the rebound home to give his Eagles a lift. Eden Prairie outshot Duluth East 10-4 in the third period.

Duluth East’s Trevor Olson scored his second goal of the game to give the Greyhounds a 2-1 lead at 9:31 of the third period.

Rau attempted to disrupt the shot, but instead sent the puck fluttering toward Eagles goaltender Andrew Ford. A deflection off Ford’s blocker sent the puck up and over him and into the net.

Duluth East grabbed a 1-0 lead at 3:31 of the second period on a power-play goal from Trevor Olson.

Precision puck movement around the perimeter created a lane for Jake Randolph. He sent the puck from one faceoff dot to the other where Olson waited to drive it home.

Grabbing an early lead was a much-needed boost for the Greyhounds, who came into Saturday’s final after playing a combined three overtime periods in victories against White Bear Lake and Edina.

The Greyhounds might have cashed in on their second power-play opportunity in the second period, but Eagles defenseman Nick Seeler made two plays to keep the puck out of the net.

Eden Prairie, which outscored its previous state tournament opponenets by a combined score of 10-1, could not muster a goal until the third period.

Luc Gerdes took the puck off the boards, stick-handled around a Duluth East defenseman backhanded the puck into Jeanetta’s leg pad. Mark Rath got to the rebound and ripped the puck high into the net to the game 1-1 at 1:43 of the third period.

Eden Prairie reached the state tournament thanks to a double-overtime victory against Wayzata in the Section 6 championship game.

-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune

Three Stars

1. Kyle Rau, Eden Prairie
When storybook endings are written, they don't end any better than this. Rau, who returned for his senior season to win another state title with his Eden Prairie classmates, did just that. He scored the game-winner in triple overtime against Duluth East, diving head first to knock in a loose puck that had trickled behind goalie JoJo Jeanetta.

2. Andrew Ford, Eden Prairie
Ford stood tall under intense pressure from the Duluth East offensive attack, making 29 saves on 31 shots. The Frank Brimsek Award finalist as one of the top senior goaltenders in the state, Ford won his second state title with his performance.

3. Trevor Olson, Duluth East
Olson scored twice for the Greyhounds in the state final -- and each one gave the 'Hounds a lead. He ripped in a power play tally from a bad angle in the second period to give East a 1-0 lead, then bounced a shot off goalie Andrew Ford's shoulder midway through the third to regain a one-goal lead.

-- Tim Kolehmainen,
Breakdown Sports USA

Hub Prediction

Reporter Prediction
Loren Nelson Eden Prairie
Tim Kolehmainen Duluth East
Pete Waggoner Eden Prairie
Michael Murakami Duluth East
Jordan Doffing Duluth East
Justin Magill Eden Prairie

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