After going scoreless for two periods, No. 1 seed Eden Prairie scored two goals in the final frame to beat No. 4 seed Prior Lake, 2-1, in a Section 2A semifinal at Braemar Arena.
The Eagles (20-4-2, 8-0-0) dominated shots and possession throughout the game. They controlled the puck early and often and tested Prior Lake (17-10, 14-3) goalie Danny Long 11 times in the first period. Long saved the first 16 shots he faced and held the Eagles, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A in the state coaches' poll, off the scoreboard.
The No. 15-2A Lakers forced Mr. Hockey nominee Casey Mittelstadt to the middle of the ice and collapsed on him, keeping the Eagles captain in check for the first two periods.
Although each team had four power play opportunities, neither was able to capitalize on the man-advantage. However, midway through the second period, Prior Lake's Jackson Jutting broke loose and scored a shorthanded goal to put his team up 1-0. The Lakers outshot the Eagles 7-5 in the middle frame and clearly had the momentum heading into the third period.
"Guys were getting a little emotional and we didn't want to back down," Eden Prairie sophomore Jack Jensen said. "Coach told us not to get down and focus on every shift. This could have been the last game for our seniors and the boys were a little nervous in the locker room."
Jensen erased the anxiety with a even strength goal assisted by Spencer Rudrud and Mittelstadt 1:09 into the third period.
"After the goal we felt awesome," Jensen said. "There was still plenty of time left and we were buzzing. We knew we would win after that goal."
Jensen was right. Six minutes later, Andrew Erwin's wrist shot sailed past Long and into the net, giving Eden Prairie a 2-1 lead. Mr. Hockey nominee Nicky Leivermann and Mittelstadt assisted the goal, which elicited a roar from the Eagles fans.
Mittelstadt was the only skater with multiple points. Eden Prairie goalie Nick Wiencek saved 17 of the 18 shots he faced while his counterpart, Long, recorded 23 saves.
Eden Prairie will face the winner of the semifinal between No. 3 seed Minnetonka and No. 2 seed Holy Family in the March 1 Section 2AA final at Mariucci Arena.
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