Edina’s 2010 state title, the program’s first under coach Curt Giles, was surprising for two reasons.
First, the group of players who finished the job was a less-heralded bunch with nary an all-state selection on the roster. Second, the talent-laden Hornets’ teams of 2008 and 2009 were supposed to have signaled the program’s return to glory with at least one state championship.
Giles, a Canadian who never played high school hockey, learned valuable lessons during those three seasons and evolved as a coach. State titles followed in 2013 and 2014 as Giles tweaked his personnel decisions and game plans.
“It’s an interesting process when you go from a player to a coach,” Giles said. “I wasn’t the most talented player; I had to be a student and study the game in order to perform at the highest level I possibly could.”
He transferred that approach to coaching.
“You end up going through the process of learning exactly what it takes to compete at a high level at this level,” Giles said.
In 2008, Edina reached the state championship game with a team heavily reliant on dominant forwards Zach Budish, Marshall Everson and Anders Lee. But carrying the team became a burden and the top line was shut down by Hill-Murray in a 3-0 loss.
Two years later, a less-heralded but deeper group won Giles his first title and altered his blueprints.
“You learn through that process what it takes to compete — how many players it takes and what types of players,” Giles said.
The run to the 2010 championship victory against Minnetonka featured no player scoring more than one goal in any of the three tournament games.
After his team’s title game loss in 2013, Hill-Murray forward Willie Brown told the media he felt like Edina “had 100 people on the bench because they kept coming at us hard. They were relentless.”
And last March, Edina’s depth was Lakeville North’s demise. The top three forward lines each chipped in at least two goals.
More balanced scoring is only part of Edina’s success. Eden Prairie’s Lee Smith has coached against Giles for years and noticed a shift in his counterpart’s personnel and tactical decisions. Edina, Smith said, started beating teams more often with its skilled transition game than a mauling forecheck.
“They sit back at times and jump on your mistakes,” Smith said. “They’ve got good special teams and they don’t beat themselves.
“Curt finds kids that do it the way he wants it done – I think he’s gotten better at that,” Smith said. “Maybe they’re not the biggest, fastest or strongest kids but they are kids he could mold.”
DAVID LA VAQUE