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No drama this time: Eagan gets return trip

By Aaron Paitich, Special to the Star Tribune, 03/02/12, 1:30AM CST


Eagan's back-to-back boys' hockey state tournament berths came in very different doses.

Hastings goaltender P.J. Piotrowski could only watch as Eagan’s Cullen Willox (15) and Zach Glienke celebrated a goal by Willox.

Eagan's back-to-back boys' hockey state tournament berths came in very different doses.

Thursday night's 10-1 bruiser over Hastings in the Class 2A, Section 3 championship was a far cry from last year's section final, a down-to-the-wire 1-0 victory over Apple Valley.

Both taste just as sweet.

"The tourney is the biggest thing in Minnesota hockey -- every kid's dream to go there," Eagan senior defenseman Eli May said.

The top-seeded Wildcats saw 10 players record multipoint games against sixth-seeded Hastings, with 13 registering at least one point.

They didn't waste much time at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum on Thursday. Senior Tommy Nowariak buried a loose puck just 1 minute, 40 seconds in for a quick lead.

Net presence and puck possession were the theme of the night for Eagan, as Cody Mason scored in similar fashion minutes later. Brothers Derick and Nick Kuchera made it 4-0, and the Wildcats closed out the first period with a sizable lead and 20-7 advantage in shots on goal while chasing the Raiders goaltender.

Nick Kuchera, Cullen Willox and Will Merchant chimed in for a 7-0 lead after two periods.

With a third-place finish at the state tournament in 2011, Eagan set the table for 2012 filled with expectations as a large core returned to the ice for another run. The Wildcats will enter play at Xcel Energy Center next week with a full head of steam.

"There's a lot of unfinished business," May said. "We've definitely achieved something, but we're still not done yet. We still have a long ways to go."

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