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Eagles gain altitude

By Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff, 12/20/12, 3:00PM CST


Eden Prairie rebounds from string of tough losses with victory over No. 10 Elk River

Elk River goaltender MacLean Berglove goes down and the puck sails up as an Eden Prairie player goes for the deflection. Photo by Brian Nelson

Eden Prairie forward Steven Spinner gathered in the puck at the point and stepped into a slapshot, ringing the crossbar. 

The puck bounced down behind Elk River goaltender MacLean Berglove and spurted out. Working its way back up to the point, Spinner again had the puck.

Bang, crossbar. 

The crowd exploded with disbelief as players scrambled around.  Another shot and a save followed as an Elk River defender dove to knock the puck out of the net. Turning the other way, Elks forward Chase Springman scored his first goal of the game in a hasty turn of events.

For Spinner and the Eagles (4-3-0), this was an all-too familiar story. Up two with their foot on the gas, they were suddenly nursing just a one goal lead due to an incredible streak of unluckiness.

By the third period of the Eagles’ 4-2 win over No. 10-ranked Elk River on Thursday, Dec. 20 at Braemar Arena in Edina, the puck eventually began to bounce their way – but not after some obstacles.

“I just kept firing them and luckily enough I kept hitting pipes and pipes and we just couldn’t bury them,” Spinner said about his series of unfortunate events. “I got really frustrated actually on that one. You always hate to see the pipes.”

Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith was just as surprised on the bench but told his team to bear down and keep attacking. 

“You just gotta work even harder,” Smith said. “Everyone is defending their goal with a lot of pride so we gotta get grittier and get stronger on the stick.”

After a shorthanded goal by Eagles forward Harry Pajor, Spinner once more found himself with the puck firing a slapshot at Berglove. This time, he wouldn’t be denied. Berglove got a piece of it, but Spinner dashed towards the goaltender and found a rebound waiting on the doorstep for him to stuff home. 

For the Eagles, turning luck in their favor was the biggest objective on Thursday. Their last two contests were unexpected losses to Lakeville North and Andover, dropping them out of the top ten of the Class AA state rankings. Sitting on a 3-3-0 record, a once intimidating Eagles squad seemingly had its wings clipped. Spinner to finally scoring in the third period -- putting the Elks away -- was a welcome sign that things are headed in the right direction.

“I was really relieved actually, the shots that I wanted to go in weren’t going in so I knew I had to go to the net hard, and those ones actually went in so I was happy and relieved,” he said. “We knew we had to come back and get this momentum and turn our season around. It was a really good turning point so hopefully it keeps going from here.”

Smith agreed without hesitation.

“It’s been an interesting year,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of puck luck against us, some good goaltending performances and some hungry teams that have battled us. 

“We had to make a statement after last week… We just gotta become a better team, we just gotta be more disciplined. As we do that, we’ll be more successful."

Harry Pajor(#11) for Eden Prairie, had a shorthanded goal earlier, and almost another on this play, as the Eagles defeated Elk River 4-2.

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

Four players scored for Eden Prairie on Thursday, Dec. 20, as the Eagles topped No. 10-ranked Elk River 4-2 in the opening game of the Edina Holiday Classic at Braemar Arena in Edina.

Junior Harry Pajor had the deciding goal in the second period for Eden Prairie when he put a backhand shot over Elk River goaltender MacLean Berglove for a shorthanded goal. The goal cut a surge of momentum from the Elks (5-2-0) who had weathered an onslaught from the Eagles (4-3-0) and then turned around to score and cut the deficit to just one goal.

Steve Spinner, a junior, sealed the game in the third period when he put in his own rebound after a shot in the slot. It was a nice conclusion for Spinner who hit multiple pipes in the game. 

After Eden Prairie ahead 2-0, Chase Springman handled the Elk River offense, scoring twice for the Elks on Thursday. 

The Eagles did a nice job bottling up the Elks for the better part of the first to periods, holding them to just 14 shots in that span. With their forwards on lockdown, the Elks launched shots from the point, trying to find goals through tip-ins and rebounds. 

The third period was back-and-forth, and Eden Prairie goaltender Jake Kielly was tested. He made 18 saves on 20 shots. Berglove played well for the Elks, stopping 29 of 33 shots.

1. Steve Spinner, Eden Prairie
He got robbed of one or two goals and still finished with a nice score. The junior forward leads the Eagles with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists). He was around the puck all night and was the most consistent offensive threat for the Eagles. 

2. Chase Springman, Elk River
Apart from some tips, he was the offense for Elk River, providing a much-needed spark. His second goal was particularly nice as he buried a two-on-one pass on a rush by the Elks. He has 10 points this season (five goals, five assists), good for second on the team. 

3. Hunter Warner, Eden Prairie
As is his normal game, he tallied just one point -- an assist --  but made a big difference on the ice. The Mankato State recruit was tough on his skates, bottling up the Elk River offense while being an imposing presence.

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