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Souhan: Long journey for the puck, and player who gave Wayzata title

By JIM SOUHAN, Star Tribune, 03/06/16, 12:09AM CST


Wayzata's game-winning shot took its sweet time finding the net, but it was worth the wait.

Wayzata players celebrated with defenseman Logan Lindstrand (25) after his goal against Eden Prairie in the second period. (AARON LAVINSKY/STAR TRIBUNE)

With the score tied in the third period of the Class 2A hockey final, Wayzata defenseman Logan Lindstrand — his teammates call him “Logs” — sent the puck toward the Eden Prairie net. Its journey would prove long and mysterious.

The puck rose. It wobbled. It evaded at least four bodies, and four sticks — or may have glanced off one or two. Who could tell? “Looked good to me,” said teammate Hank Sorensen.

After stopping for coffee and directions, the puck eventually nestled — yes, nestled, softly — into the net.

That goal completed a comeback from a two-goal deficit, thwarted the best player in the state, gave Wayzata its first state hockey championship and heartened coaches everywhere who beg their players to throw the puck toward the net, because something good might happen.

Lindstrand’s shot put Wayzata ahead for good in a 5-3 victory over Eden Prairie on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center, and it made Lindstrand, momentarily, the face of Minnesota high school hockey.

“This has been a dream of mine ever since I started playing hockey in Mites,” Lindstrand said. “It’s unbelievable. It hasn’t set in yet.”

Sorensen, the unofficial moderator of the winning team’s news conference, spoke up. “Couldn’t have happened to a better person,” he said. “Or harder worker.”

Lindstrand: “Thanks, Hank.”

Sorensen: “No problem.”

Lindstrand’s goal came too late to land him on the all-tournament team, but he’s a lock for a future promotional poster. He wore a playoff beard and outstanding hockey hair, and his Twitter account is the best advertisement for Minnesota high school hockey since the invention of the Brotens.

On Jan. 24, Lindstrand’s account tweeted: “Hockey is really fun.”

On Dec. 25, he tweeted: “First pond skate of the year is a Christmas miracle.”

He also tweeted about the devastating effects of gas station hot dogs, but mostly he waxed poetic about the sport long before he stamped his name on it.

“My boy Logan here has been working on that, after practice,” Sorensen said. “Forty-five minutes after practice, by himself. It definitely paid off.”

Wayzata coach Pat O’Leary was asked if Lindstrand practiced with teammates standing in front of his shot. “He visualizes the other guys,” O’Leary said with a smile. “How many has he scored like that this year? Five? I think every one of his goals has been a step-side shot from the point.

“We do work on that quite a bit in practice, but he’s always out there five minutes early, dancing around the blue line.”

The Class 2A final was a Western suburb intramural affair featuring two of the largest schools in the state. These kids have been playing with and against each other for a decade.

Eden Prairie featured the remarkably skilled Casey Mittelstadt and Michael Graham. Wayzata countered with physical defense in front of standout goalie Alex Schilling, whom Mittelstadt called “the best in the state.”

Eden Prairie took a 3-1 lead, which looked safe when Sorensen was called for a five-minute major after boarding Graham midway through the second period.

O’Leary called a timeout and calmed his players, who tied the score by the end of the period and controlled the third.

That’s how it came to be that Lindstrand found the puck on his stick in the third period of a tied championship game Saturday night at the X — the stuff of Minnesota high school hockey daydreams.

“I was just trying to get the puck on net,” Lindstrand said. “I saw one of their guys coming up quick. I tried to get it off quick, and was just lucky it went in.”

The old saying holds that luck is the residue of design. So often in sports, luck is the dividend of practice.

Lindstrand kept showing up at practice early, and working on shots from the point, and staying after practice, and taking more shots from the point.

His winning shot Saturday looked like luck, the way it serpentined through four bodies and four sticks and a squared-up goalie, but he had practiced, and daydreamed, that shot before.

“Those kinds of things are uncoachable,” O’Leary said. “That comes from within.”


Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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