Eden Prairie senior Casey Mittelstadt sets up the Eagles' fourth goal of the Eagles' 6-1 victory over Edina Saturday night at Braemar Arena. Mittelstadt finished with three goals and an assist for Eden Prairie. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
After two consecutive losses in the Edina Holiday Classic, Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith decided to change his offensive lines and defensive pairings. Early in the weekend, there was clutter at the blue line. Miscommunication in the defensive zone. Slow play throughout.
The pieces were there, Smith contended, but not in the right spots. Saturday, he moved the pieces —including putting Hunter Johannes back on first line with Casey Mittelstadt and shifting Ryan Lesko to the second line instead of third. It worked, and the the Eagles (5-2) beat Lake Conference rival Edina 6-1 at Braemar Ice Arena.
“From the lineup that we started with on Thursday, to the lineup we played with today, it changed because of the way we played in those other games,” Smith said. “These are all teaching moments to see who we have and what they can do.”
The biggest adjustment was moving Johannes, who played with Mittelstadt all of last season. That move helped simplify the game, Mittelstadt said. That meant getting pucks in deep, rather than making moves at the blue line, and cleaning up passes and rushes.
“We were just trying to force it too much,” Mittelstadt said of the weekend’s first two games. “I don’t think our effort was bad against Grand Rapids. We just didn’t get the bounces.”
The Eagles didn’t need lucky bounces to beat Edina (4-3), who is ranked No. 7 in Class 2A based on the state coaches' poll. One night after Edina routed Elk River 5-0, the No. 1-2A Eagles put in six goals against the Hornets.
Eden Prairie took an early lead when Mittelstadt scored at 6:31 of the opening period. He caught a pass in the slot with his right skate, then made a backhand move past Edina goalie Garrett Mackay to put the Eagles up 1-0.
He scored again in the second, flipping a top-shelf backhand through traffic. But support also began coming from elsewhere. Production came from up and down the lineup, something that was missing on Thursday and Friday.
“If you want to make any noise at the end of the year, you need everybody pulling the train, not just Casey,” Smith said.
His teammates helped, but Mittelstadt is still the Eagles’ conductor. He leads the Eagles with six goals this season and returned to Eden Prairie to win a state championship after a stint with Green Bay in the United States Hockey League.
Going undefeated was the goal. This weekend crushed that dream.
Still, Mittelstadt knows a state title run will mean more defensemen honing in on No. 11. The hits are harder. The trash talk relentless. None of that bothers him.
“It’s been like that pretty much my whole life,” he said. “I’m used to it.”
Edina's Bjorn Swanson and Eden Prairie's Jake Olson fight for puck possession near the boards in the neutral zone Saturday night at Braemar Arena. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
Casey Mittelstadt scored two goals in Eden Prairie's 6-1 win over Edina on Saturday in the Edina Holiday Classic. The senior's performance helped Eden Prairie, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A by the state coaches' poll, bounce back after losing two consecutive games on Thursday and Friday.
The Eagles (5-2) controlled play from the start, and took an early lead when Mittelstadt scored at 6:31 of the opening period. He caught a pass in the slot with his right skate, then made a backhand move past Edina goalie Garrett Mackay to put the Eagles up 1-0.
The next period he scored again with a sly top-shelf backhand. It was his first multi-goal game of the season.
Edina (4-3) cut the lead to two early in the third period with a goal from Matt Rozman, but goals from Hunter Johannes, Ryan Lesko and Tom Piechowski gave the Eagles plenty of buffer in the final minutes.
Eagles goalie Nick Wiencek made 21 saves.
Eden Prairie entered the weekend as Class 2A’s top-ranked team, but lost the tournament’s first two games to No. 4-2A Elk River and No. 3-2A Grand Rapids. Saturday’s win over No. 7-2A Edina was the Eagles’ first victory against a ranked opponent.
Eden Prairie celebrates Casey Mittelstadt's third goal Saturday in front of the Edina student section. The Eagles defeated Edina 6-1. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
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