Eden Prairie senior defenseman Dan Molenaar, right, was named to the Class 2A all-tournament team. Photo by Helen Nelson
Eden Prairie senior co-captain Dan Molenaar reacts after teammate Kyle Rau scored in triple overtime to beat Duluth East. Photo by Helen Nelson
After Eden Prairie scored in triple overtime of the state Class 2A championship game against Duluth East on Saturday, March 12, the Eagles’ kicked off the relieved celebration.
Thirteen exhausted seniors raised their hands towards Eden Prairie’s second championship trophy in three years as tears ran down their faces.
“I’ve never cried harder after a game in my life,” Eden Prairie defenseman Dan Molenaar said. “It’s a lot better than crying tears of sadness, I’ll tell you that much. It finally hits you that it’s done."
Being "done" probably meant more to Molenaar than anyone else on Eden Prairie.
"I'm having (arthroscopic hip) surgery on Tuesday (March 15) and I’ll be out for a little while," said Molenaar, who will have the surgery at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina.
The senior co-captain’s storybook ending to his high school career could have been over a lot sooner than the thrilling title game. It might not have started at all.
Molenaar sustained a potential season-ending injury during play in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League last fall.
“I’ve been playing with double hip impingements since the start of the season,” Molenaar said following Eden Prairie’s victory.
According to WebMD, a hip impingement is a "separation of the ball from the thigh bone at the upper growing end (growth plate) of the bone."
Molenaar described in detail how he suffered the injury.
“I remember the day -- October 9, we were playing Team Northwest," Molenaar said. "I think it was the last shift of the game. Puck was in the corner and I had been on the ground with somebody else from the other team.
“I went to go, I planted my foot and I went to stride with my planted (right) foot and it didn’t come with me. So my foot stayed as I jolted forward with my hip and it popped it out and back in real quick and that’s what they think caused the tear.”
At the time, nobody knew exactly how severe the injury was.
“We didn’t know it was that serious until a couple weeks later,” Molenaar said. “I had gone to chiropractors and they said I might want to get it looked at, it wasn’t getting better.
“So I went in, I got MRIs -- there was a torn labrum and a hip impingement. It started out with my right hip, only my right and midway through the season it was the same thing on the other one.”
The news was difficult to bear for Molenaar who never dreamed his last season of high school hockey would end before it even began.
Eden Prairie senior co-captain Dan Molenaar (17) will have arthroscopic hip surgery three days after the Eagles won their second sate championship in three years. Photo by Helen Nelson
“Start of the season it was actually really good,” Molenaar said. “Before the season there was discussion whether or not I could even be able to play. They said, ‘surgery, you’re out four months minimum’, and I said, ‘I can’t do that, I’ll just wait until after.’”
The decision came with great cost as the pain became a theme in Molenaar’s life.
“I was probably in physical therapy two, three times a week,” Molenaar said. “One of guys on the team had an (electroconvulsive therapy) machine -- I probably used that five out of seven days. Ice packs, you name it. Just anything. It was up and down and it was up at the right time this past weekend. I was able to play through it.”
Some may wonder why he would willingly choose to play through all the pain, to grind through the therapy.
“Just the fact that we’re able to take this (title) and end like this -- it masks all pain, it’s just phenomenal.”
His efforts did not go unnoticed by Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith.
“To be able to play knowing you’re going to have two hip surgeries and find a way to get yourself healthy enough to skate and play in the games like he did -- amazing,” Smith said. “It just shows how committed he was to his teammates, his community, to us as coaches -- it just shows the character he has.
“He had the courage to keep playing even when he could have just bailed, and he didn’t.”
Sticking around paid off as Molenaar won the coveted state championship and was selected to the Class 2A all-tournament team.
“Senior year to end like this, we wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way,” Molenaar said. “This is a lifelong memory -- not for just senior year but for the rest my entire life. It’s something I can share with these boys forever.
"The group that we’ve had for the past 10 years -- if there’s any way that you could write it to end a high school career that’s how you would do it.”
With the honor of being named to that all-tournament team and the championship won, Molenaar had no regrets.
“I’d do it a million times over again,” Molenaar said. “Without question.”
School: Eden Prairie
Credentials: Molenaar played on Team Southwest in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League last fall where he registered 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 17 games. Molenaar was also a co-captain of Eden Prairie -- the 2011 Class 2A champions -- and was selected to the Class 2A all-tournament team. The senior defenseman contributed 29 points (six goals, 23 assist) for the Eagles.