Nick Leivermann (4) celebrated after scoring the go ahead goal in the third period. Eden Prairie beat Holy Family 4-3. (Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune)
Eden Prairie’s Casey Mittelstadt knew what was coming when he sent a pass toward Nick Leivermann.
Leivermann’s third period goal put top-ranked Eden Prairie ahead to stay in a thrilling 4-3 victory against Holy Family in Wednesday’s Class 2A, Section 2 boys’ hockey championship game at Mariucci Arena.
From the backyard rink to practice and even in past varsity games, Leivermann buries his shot, Mittelstadt recalled. This time, however, Leivermann wasn’t so sure.
“Last game I was having some problems getting pucks to the net,” said Leivermann, a senior defenseman who signed with Notre Dame last fall. “[Assistant] coach Tom Gerdes told me to relax and just shoot.”
He put the puck just under the crossbar for a power-play goal and put his Eagles back in the state tournament. Eden Prairie (21-4-2), runner-up at state last March, ran its winning streak to 15 games. The Eagles also maintained their playoff mastery of No. 4 Holy Family (22-5-1) with a fourth postseason victory in five seasons. But winning wasn’t easy.
Goals from Nick Michel (second period) and Mack Byers (third) put the Fire ahead by a goal each time.
“It took a lot of resiliency when you go down twice by a goal,” said Mittelstadt, who tallied a second-period goal to tie the game 2-2. “To prevail from that is a credit to the guys in the locker room.”
Holy Family was playing in the program’s first section final. “It was their first time here, but you would have never known it,” Eden Prairie head coach Lee Smith said.
Leivermann’s goal with a little more than seven minutes to play didn’t end the drama. The Fire was awarded a power play with 56 seconds to go and pulled their goalie for a two-man advantage. A final shot with only seconds remaining skipped off the skate of Eagles’ goalie Nick Wiencek.
“We had one shot to maybe get us to overtime,” said Fire coach Noel Rahn, whose team had won 15 of its past 16 games. “Both teams played their hearts out.”
Top-ranked and No. 1 seed Eden Prairie (21-4-2) edged No. 4-ranked Holy Family (22-5-1) for a 4-3 victory in the Class 2A, Section 2 championship games played Wednesday at Mariucci Arena.
Nick Leivermann scored the game-winning goal on the power play for the Eagles.
The Eagles, defending Section 2 champions, ran their winning streak to 15 games.