Last season, Eden Prairie had it all.
It had the best player in the state, Kyle Rau, an outstanding cast of seniors and a goalie who gave the Eagles two state championships in three seasons.
As a sophomore goalie, this is the pressure that Derrick LaCombe has to come in and try to duplicate from the blueprint that was laid out by the Eagles most recent goaltender, Andrew Ford.
So far on the young season, LaCombe has proven he can handle the pressure of being the last line of defense for the defending state champions.
"I just try to come in with a level head," LaCombe said. "That is about all you have to do, not get to low, not get to high because your teammates have to see that from you back there."
This was the case for the Eagles against Grand Rapids as Eden Prairie came out with a strong offensive showing to begin the game and on top of that, only allowed four shots on net in the first period.
In the second period, Grand Rapids was able to triple that mark, but could not find a way to beat LaCombe.
"That was a busy second period," LaCombe said. "Compared to the first where there wasn't a lot going on and having to see a lot of action in the right after that.
"You just have to stay calm."
Grand Rapids was able to get a shot by LaCombe in the third, but that would be all it would get as the Eagles defense was strong in the final period, already adding to the daunting task of trying to beat a young goalie, who is seeing the puck nicely.
"He is just so calm back there," Eagles coach Lee Smith said. "When you see a sophomore goalie, who has some big shoes to fill, handle the position like he is right now, it gives our team a lot of confidence in him.
"Andrew Ford finished his career here with over 40 wins and to come in, shut down Eagan and a good Grand Rapids team says a lot about your character."
Less than two weeks ago LaCombe stopped 38 shots against Eagan, which propelled the Eagles to a 2-1 win.
Against another top-10 team in Grand Rapids, although not as busy, he was still a stable force in net, allowing the Eagles to play their highly aggressive offensive attack.
"We play our best hockey when we are able to play like that," Smith said. "Derrick lets us do that with the way he is playing right now and we couldn't ask for more."
In his three starts so far, LaCombe has only allowed three goals on 75 total shots and Eden Prairie is 3-0-0 when he is in net.
"I don't know what it is," LaCombe said. "I just try to go out there and try to play my game.
"I have great teammates, coaches that give me the best advice on what to do."
LaCombe has taken that advice and made the most of it, which has allowed the Eagles to perhaps rebuild a little bit faster than expected.
"We brought in a lot of young players, a bunch of sophomore are playing with us right now," Smith said. "Derrick is a great goaltender and he is allowing us to grow."
In a matchup of top 10 teams, No. 8 (Class AA) Eden Prairie handed No. 6 (Class AA) Grand Rapids its second straight loss, 3-1 on Friday, December 16 at Braemar Ice Arena.
Eden Prairie goalie Derrick LaCombe stopped 18 shots on the night, 12 in the second period alone to help give the Eagles the win.
Hunter Shepard made 22 saves for the Thunderhawks.
The Eagles were led on offense by Andrew Knudsen, who had a goal and an assist.
He was joined by teammate Mason Bergh, who had two assists, as the only players to record more than one point in the game.
In the first period, Luc Snuggerud opened the scoring when he was able to get a low, wrist shot off from the point that got by Shepard.
The second period was not as dominant in terms of attack for Eden Prairie, but it did score two goals on three shots.
Austin Macleod scored on the power play less than three minutes in and Andrew Knudsen followed shortly after with an even strength goal.
In the third, Travis Underwood finally got Grand Rapids on the board, but Eden Prairie shut the Thunderhawks down after that.
With the win, Eden Prairie improves to 4-0-1 on the season and will play a big one against Edina on Saturday, Dec. 17 at Braemar Ice Arena in the final game of the Edina Holiday Classic.
Grand Rapids drops its second straight game to fall to 5-2-0 on the season and will play Elk River on Saturday, Dec. 17 at Braemar Ice Arena.
1. Derrick LaCombe, Eden Prairie
The sophomore goaltender proved once again that the Eagles can rely on him and continue to play in front of him they way they did to win two state titles in the past three seasons. LaCombe made 18 saves, 12 of them in the second when Grand Rapids made a push to get back in the game. He stood his ground for the second time this season against a top 10 opponent.
2. Andrew Knudsen, Eden Prairie
He found himself on the scoresheet with a goal and an assist. He helped set up the first Eagles goal on the power play in the opening period and scored early in the second to complete the multi-point night. Knudsen was a force all night in the offensive zone for the Eagles, producing quality scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
3. Mason Bergh, Eden Prairie
In the first period, it looked like Bergh was on his way to a big goal-scoring night when he constantly attacked the net with the puck, but just was unable to bury one. However, he did have two assists, which was indicative to how he played. If he wasn't able to generate a chance on his own, he constantly set his teammates up to do so.