Louie Nanne (11) is just a junior, but the University of Minnesota recruit is a captain on the young Edina squad. Photo by Helen Nelson.
Tryouts for the Edina varsity hockey team might just rival the state tournament in terms of competitiveness, intrigue and drama.
It’s been that way for years for one of the state’s most storied programs.
The Hornets have won seven state titles -- 10 if you count the three that went to Edina East when the posh Minneapolis suburb had two high schools.
Tugging on that classically styled green and white Hornets jersey remains a dream for hundreds upon hundreds of kids rising through Edina’s ultra-successful youth program.
This fall, when the ice spray cleared, there were just two seniors on the Hornets’ roster. Several others with varsity experience had been cut. Handwringing and hard feelings were abundant in the hockey community.
Edina coach Curt Giles found himself squarely in the line of fire.
“What you do at the beginning of the winter is you pick the best players you have and then you go,” Giles said. “There is nothing else to this. The kids try out. It is very competitive tryouts.
“We as coaches try to make the best decisions we possibly can and take the best kids we could possibly have. And hopefully go into the season and end up where we are going.”
Despite a roster loaded with sophomores and sprinkled with freshmen, the fourth-ranked Hornets are headed to their annual early March destination, namely the state Class 2A tournament in St. Paul. This trip marks their sixth consecutive state tournament appearance, the state’s longest active run.
No. 4-ranked Edina (23-5-0) received the No. 4 seed and plays No. 6-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret’s (22-6-0) at 8 p.m. on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul in the most anticipated of the quarterfinal matchups.
“This is probably going to be the best experience of my life,” said Hornets sophomore Connor Hurley, one of the state’s most dynamic forwards. “All these guys have been telling me it’s the greatest feeling. I’ve wanted the chance to play in this my whole life.
“I am going to remember it forever.”
Edina features an odd mix of battletested veterans familiar with the big stage and newbies who will experience the thrill of playing in front of 18,000 fans for the first time.
“For those guys, I just say, ?Enjoy it,’ ” Hornets senior captain Nick Leer said. “This is going to be an awesome week. There is nothing better than playing in the state tournament.”
Edina was a one-line team for most of the regular season, receiving the bulk of its goals from the brilliant duo of Hurley (24 goals, 31 assists for a team-best 55 points) and Malmquist (26-23--49).
The scoring has been much more balanced in the postseason, however, as junior Anthony Walsh posted a team-best nine points, and linemate Miguel Fidler, a sophomore, shared the team high in goals with four in three games.
All three of Edina’s forward lines contributed at least goal in the Hornets’ 6-3 Section 2AA championship game victory over Burnsville.
“We were hoping for something like this to break through, where some of these kids who haven’t gotten some of those goals would be rewarded for some of the hard work they have put in,” Giles said.
Curt Giles, a former Minnesota North Stars defenseman, has been well-served by his even-keeled demeanor and matter-of-fact coaching style. He might not show it, but he’ll tell you he’s having the time of his life coaching the Hornets. “There is nothing like this, there just really isn’t. To play in what I think is one of the greatest tournaments in the world ... I have to tell you it never gets old. It’s a blast.”
Head Coach: Curt Giles
Colors: Kelly Green, White
Assistant Coaches: Dave Terwilliger, Don Beaupre, Dave Langevin, Dick Blooston
Home Ice: Braemar Ice Arena, Edina
State Tournament Appearances: 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989. (Class AA): 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
State Titles: 7 (1969; 1971; 1982; 1984; 1988; 1997, Class AA; 2010 Class AA; 2011 Class AA, 2012 Class AA)