Eden Prairie hockey players received T-shirts before the boys’ hockey state tournament with the hashtags “#redemption” and “#relax” on the chest. Both became tough to fulfill as Thursday’s quarterfinal with rival Wayzata went almost 45 minutes without an Eagles goal.
No. 1 seed Eden Prairie drew defending Class 2A champion Wayzata in the first round, a tantalizing rematch of last season’s title game. Eagles players claim they relished the chance to face their demons. Trailing 1-0 after two periods, however, “It was pretty quiet in that room,” Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said.
Frustration mounted after Wayzata went ahead 1-0 only 55 seconds into the second period. At that point, the best player on the ice wasn’t Eden Prairie forward Casey Mittelstadt, a future first-round NHL draft pick. It was Wayzata goalie Reid Waszczenko, who earned only one of Wayzata’s meager seven regular-season victories before a playoff transformation of both player and team.
“Midway through the second period I heard one of their players kind of get frustrated with his linemates, which is part of sports,” Trojans coach Pat O’Leary said. “I thought to myself, ‘There’s something going on here.’ This isn’t a game in January. So I was hoping they’d feel a little bit of pressure being down one to us going into the third.”
Eden Prairie definitely felt it.
“We’re really a close-knit bunch and sometimes when you’re a family, you squabble,” Smith said. “But I think with the way [the Trojans] play, blocking shots, finishing checks, that just leads to frustration no matter what.”
Eden Prairie scored a combined 12 goals in winning both games against Wayzata earlier this season. This time they got only two goals, both in the third period, before adding an empty-netter. After the game, the bravado Eden Prairie lacked during the second intermission returned.
“We wanted this team from the beginning of the year,” said Nick Leivermann, the Eden Prairie defenseman who notched the game-winning goal. “A chance to beat them in a tournament like this is something special. In a game like that where we’re down 1-0 going into the third, it shows a lot of heart and desire for our team to come out and win that one.”