Eden Prairie's Nicky Leivermann (4) celebrates after scoring a shootout goal Thursday night that sent the Eagles to the Schwan Cup Gold Division semifinals. Eden Prairie and Hill-Murray finished their quarterfinal game tied 2-2. Photo by Drew Herron
Eden Prairie's Nicky Leivermann had never taken part in a shootout before.
On Thursday night in a Schwan Cup Gold Division quarterfinal matchup against Hill-Murray at Ridder Arena, Leivermann made the practice look old hat. The junior captain skated patiently towards Hill-Murray goaltender Jake Begley before burying a wrist shot in the top shelf to send the Eagles to the semifinals after the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
It proved a memorable way to finish a hard-fought game full of transitions and limited second chances in the slot as the Eagles took the first step towards repeating as tournament champions.
“The whole time, I was thinking lower right,” Leivermann says. “When I looked up, I didn’t see anything there, so I faked and put it upstairs as quickly as I could.”
Leivermann was the sixth and final shooter of the night, and the only skater to convert in the extra round.
Hill-Murray (5-0-3), ranked No. 10 in the Class 2A coaches’ poll, struck first when Brock Bremer scored midway through the second period. However, the No. 4-2A Eagles (6-2-2) answered 63 seconds later to knot the score, then took the lead with 36 seconds remaining in the period with Nolan Sullivan’s goal.
After Hill-Murray senior Kyler Yeo leveled the score in the opening minute of the third period, both sides settled in for a long, drawn out battle.
“I was impressed with both teams, both teams played hard, both goalies played really well,” Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said. “Both teams get up and down the ice so well, but there weren’t a lot of second chances. Credit the goalies, and credit the defenses for clearing the puck out of there in a hurry.”
Eden Prairie outshot Hill-Murray 35-21 for the game, but the Pioneers blocked 22 shots, and largely made the Eagles work from the outside much more than they would have liked.
Leivermann's conversion sends Eden Prairie on to the semifinal round, where it faces either Burnsville or Edina on Friday evening.
The Eagles, however, are taking things one step at a time.
“This tournament especially gets tougher and tougher as you move along,” Leivermann said. “The talent here is incredible, and when we won it last year, it really provided a spark for us the second half of the season. We are looking to do that again.”
Hill-Murray senior Kyler Yeo fights to bury a rebound early in the third period Thursday at Ridder Arena. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
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