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Heavyweights to square off tonight

By Staff Reports, 01/16/09, 12:19PM CST


EP and Edina meet for second time in a month

As the great Michael Buffer would say, “For the thousands in attendance, and millions watching around the world.....Let's Get Ready to Rummmmmmmble!!!” A true heavyweight battle is set for the Eden Prairie Community Center tonight featuring the Eden Prairie Eagles and Edina Hornets. It is a game that brings the veteran hockey watching community back to the old “Friday Night at the Fights” and it can be seen on MyFoxHockey.com


The two teams faced off just about one month ago at the Edina Holiday Classic and it was the Hornets eeking out the 3-2 win over the skilled Eagles. Time has passed, and since then, the Hornets have established themselves as an elite team in the State. MyFoxHockey.com's Bart Archer suggested that this could be one of the best teams assembled in recent high school hockey lore.


He is not alone in his sentiments as the Hornets have carved up a number of top teams. They are a better team from December as the club has returned to health. John Ankeny has solidified the net having allowed just 6 goals in five games dating back to the Schwan Cup. They not only have the best forward line with Marshall Everson (19g-19a-38pts), Anders Lee (13g-23a-31pts) and Connor Gaarder (13g-18a-31pts) but a batch of defencemen that from 1-6 could be in the top three of any team in the league.


Their second line is spearheaded by Michael Sit who along with Charlie Taft, have produced some offensive numbers of late as they are each on point streaks. Taft has recorded a point in four straight games (4g-1a-5pts) and Sit has been the primary set up man (4a-4pts) in his last three games.


It seems like lofty praise and a view that the Hornets (13-1-0) can do no wrong. It is lofty praise and they have played a brand that is looking more and more like a team that is playing collectively at the next level. Take away a 3-1 loss back on December 6th, and they have defeated seven teams that have been ranked at one point or another on the season by the various services. They have a keen knowledge of the game away from the puck and the ability to gain physical advantages with impeccable use of their bodies, especially on the end boards in the offensive and defensive zones.


Sounds like they will never lose again right? Perhaps wrong. Tonight they face the Eden Prairie Eagles who will strike back and are not impressed with the bigger and stronger Hornets. Eden Prairie is among the best skating teams in the State and they pursue the puck with a convicted vigor. They have lost just two games and they have both been one goal numbers to the Hornets (3-2) and the second ranked Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2-1).


A common denominator in both losses was goalie Matt Halloran who made huge saves in both games as his team was outshot (39-33) by Edina and (43-16) at the hands of Jefferson. No matter, they were one bounce away from a tie and two from a win. They are less prolific offensively than the Hornets, yet more balanced.


Consider that the Eagles (12-2-0, 7-1-0) have eight players who have recorded double digits in scoring while the Hornets have five. Sophomore Kyle Rau is a competitor and shows up when it is on the line every game. He leads the team (7g-9a-16pts) and is joined by senior Mike Erickson (6g-9a-15pts) who each have combined for 11 power play points. Defenceman Nick Leddy is thrid on the team in scoring and if one can believe it, he continues to improve and make others around him better. Whether it is in the defensive zone, in transition, or on the power play, Leddy, has the innate ability to make the proper decisions.


Leddy, along with Edina's Zach Budish who is not in the lineup due to a knee injury are each ranked in the first round of eligible North American Skaters for the upcoming draft. The large and physical Taylor Wolfe leads his team in goals with 9. Should it be goalie Andrew Ford's turn, he ranked 5th in the league with a 1.33 goals against average. The game will come down to the strength of the Hornet forwards, special teams, and the ability for the Eagles to play off the rush. They will need to play a possession game as the Hornets defencemen are too good in moving the puck.


Be sure to log on to MyFoxHockey.com for a hockey game, or heavyweight battle that resembles the old school Friday Night at the Fights. For good measure, the #2 Jaguars will undoubtedly be ringside for a look at their conference rival in Eden Prairie and their Section 2AA rival in Edina.