Edina's Miguel Fidler (12) and Bo Brauer (19) pinched off a Duluth East player during the Class 2A semifinals Friday, March 8. Photo by Adam Crane.
Meirs Moore’s face told the story.
The Duluth East defenseman was battered and bruised. He sat at the postgame press conference with a blank stare on his face, running through the play-by-play of the game he’d just endured.
No room to move. Physical. Very few chances.
Those have habitually been words used to describe Duluth East’s game over the course of the season, one where the Hounds consistently frustrated opponents with some of the best team defense the program has seen in the past decade.
In Friday night’s Class 2A semifinal against Edina, those words were used for the Hornets, not the Hounds.
Edina did its best Duluth East impression and absolutely smothered the Hounds, holding them to few scoring chances or shots outside of the first and final five minutes of play.
The Hounds felt the effects.
Duluth East's Meirs Moore (15) tangles with Edina's Miguel Fidler (12). Photo by Adam Crane.
“They played a solid game,” Moore said. “I was getting tired, getting hit after every time we move the puck. [We were] getting pounded all over the ice.”
That’s something Duluth East hadn’t experienced much this season, if at all.
Blue-liners Alex Trapp and Andrew Kerr are usually the wrecking balls, sending opponents flying and putting a look-over-your-shoulder mentality into the minds of foes.
Duluth East is usually the one controlling the pace and grinding teams down. In fact, when the Hounds and Hornets met earlier this year – a 4-1 Duluth East win in the Schwan Cup – that’s exactly what happened.
Edina struggled. East pummeled.
On Friday, the Hornets took that game plan and flipped it.
After a strong start and an Alex Toscano goal to put Duluth East on the board, the Hounds started running around and making mistakes. Much of that was due to the pace of Edina; the Hornets went from zero-to-sixty in a matter of seconds.
Duluth East gripped its sticks tighter and got tense, both physically and mentally.
“We didn’t manage the puck very well and because of that they jumped on it,” coach Mike Randolph said. “They have some good players that can put the puck away, so our puck management was not very good all night. They pounded us and just kind of had a great game plan. Come back at us, wear us down, don’t make mental mistakes.”
By the time the third period rolled around, Duluth East had had too much.
A one-goal lead quickly evaporated when Miguel Fidler scored four-minutes into the frame. Then, Tyler Nanne and Andy Jordahl scored in a 19-second span midway through the period, offering the straw that ultimately broke Duluth East’s back.
“The third one right after the second one, it was kind of a dagger to the heart,” said Toscano.
The Hounds rebounded and pulled to within a goal late in the contest, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Edina was just too tough. Duluth East just couldn’t muster enough.
“We didn’t get to a point where we could play our game and shut them down, go into defensive mode,” Randolph said. “I wish we could have scored [the second goal] a little earlier, get our guys going and then work on pulling our goalie.
“But these guys never quit. I am proud of them.”
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff
Andy Jordahl (10) tallied the third goal in Edina's 3-2 victory over Duluth East. Photo by Adam Crane.
Edina senior Andy Jordahl scored one of the Hornets’ biggest goals of the season, courtesy of a pass from sophomore winger Dylan Malmquist.
The goal came with 5 minutes, 22 seconds left and gave Edina its final lead.
Young and old, the Hornets needed clutch play from anywhere they could find it to rally past No. 6 Duluth East with three third-period goals en route to a 3-2 victory in the state Class 2A semifinals on Friday, March 8, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
"It was awesome," Jordahl said. "It was really big for our team. Malmquist set me up perfectly in the slot, and I just kind of threw it on net. You can kind of say it was lucky."
Edina needed all three goals it scored in the third because the Greyhounds were not going to leave without a fight.
Despite getting beat up by the Hornets’ physical play, Duluth East pulled within one when Meirs Moore drilled a snapshot past Edina's Willie Benjamin to cut the deficit to one with 1 minute, 46 seconds left in the third.
"I wish we could have scored a little earlier," Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said. "We had to get two in not a lot of time."
Miguel Fidler got Edina on the board after Parker Reno's shot was initially saved. Fidler quickly swatted the rebound into the upper corner.
"I thought about passing it to him," Reno said. "It just popped up, I knew Miguel was down there, He was pretty open, Just threw it right at the net.”
“I knew Parker saw me and that he made the right decision, got it on the net,” Fidler added.
Nanne gave the Hornets their first lead, but it all came down to Jordahl's all-important third goal.
The persistence of Edina to stick to its plan of an aggressive forecheck and not sit on a lead paid off to get the cushion it would ultimately need.
"That third goal killed us," Randolph said.
-- Justin Magill, MN Hockey Hub
The disappointment was real for Wayzata coach Pat O'Leary and his players after losing 2-1 to top-seeded Hill-Murray in the Class 2A state semifinals Friday at the X. But that doesn't diminish what the Trojans accomplished this winter.
"I don't know if any of us would have said we'd have 22 wins this year and lose in the semifinals of the state tournament," admitted O'Leary, who is in his second year as coach. "You goal for stuff like that, but you don't know what you're going to have."
That's particularly true for Wayzata, which graduated nearly all of its goal-scoring from last season. O'Leary didn't want his team to use it as an excuse this winter, though. He felt it was time for the program to make a quantum leap.
"If you continue to lose in the section championship or semifinals or against the top teams -- you have to find a way to win one once in a while so you can learn the positive side of it, too," O'Leary said. "You always say you learn from a loss, you learn from a loss. But it's nice to win some of those once in a while, too."
As it turns out, that wasn't a problem this winter. Outside the top-10 rankings at the start of the season, Wayzata jumped all the way to No. 1 for a time after winning the Sports Authority Holiday Classic in St. Louis Park. The Trojans shook off a late season losing streak to run the gauntlet in the tough Section 6AA playoffs, qualifying for the state tournament for just the third time in school history (1954 and 2004). Along the way, they beat the top two seeds, Minnetonka and defending Class 2A champion Benilde-St. Margaret's. Throw in a state quarterfinal victory over Centennial and Wayzata was looking like a true threat to take home a title.
Until Hill-Murray rallied to erase a 1-0 Trojans' lead in the third period.
Wayzata now must refocus on a third-place date with Duluth East Saturday at noon. No matter the result, O'Leary has the program pointed in the right direction.
"They learned so much. Fighting through adversity, believing in each other, believing in a common goal and trying to do something bigger than themselves," O'Leary said.
"I think they did that this year."
-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA
Instead of prepping physically for his senior season this summer, Aaron Dingmann had to be patient, strict and cautious after having hip surgery.
There were unknowns at every turn.
Dingmann started just three games in his junior season, and if he was physically unable to play right away, sophomore Jens Vaughan Ahrens was waiting in the wings.
Turns out there was no need for a backup.
Dingmann took the job from the start and never let go of it.
"He’s been unbelievable this year," Trojans' coach Pat O'Leary said after the Trojans’ 2-1 loss to Hill-Murray in the state Class 2A semifinals on Friday. "He was the rock on our team and everyone knows that."
Dingmann went 6-3-0 in Wayzata’s nine one-goal games.
"Those are the games I like to be in," he said.
Dingmann continued his remarkable play during the state tournament. He stole the show in the Trojans' 2-1 overtime victory against Centennial with 28 saves.
He was on his way to another similar performance against the Pioneers until they scored two in the third period.
"He is the real deal," Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner said. "He is big, solid, good, he is the full package."
Dingmann made 28 saves and the two that got by him came through heavy traffic as Hill-Murray began to crash the net and clog the middle.
It might have been the only way Hill-Murray was going to beat him.
"You are not going to beat him straight on if he can see it," Lechner said. "He is too good."
-- Justin Magill, MN Hockey Hub