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Edina, Girard shut out Eden Prairie

By Michael Murakami, Hockey Hub staff, 02/03/11, 11:45PM CST


Hornets score three third-period goals, Connor Girard makes 36 saves to blank Eagles

Edina senior goaltender Connor Girard (right) makes one of his 36 saves, this one against a diving Kyle Rau of Eden Prairie, during the Thursday, Feb. 3, game. Photo by Adam Crane

There is, most likely, no high school goaltender in Minnesota who would be opposed to recording a 36-save shutout victory over Eden Prairie.

Edina’s Connor Girard certainly doesn’t mind.

“I’ll take it,” Girard said with a laugh.

The senior goaltender stopped everything that was thrown at him as the Hornets defeated the Eagles 3-0 on Thursday, Feb. 3, at the Eden Prairie Community Center.

“My defense helped me out a lot,” Girard said. “They let me see the puck and kept the guys to the outside, and when they do that, the rebounds take care of themselves.”

Girard made several saves against Eden Prairie star forward Kyle Rau and the rest of the high-powered Eagles’ offense.

“We just need to bury our opportunities,” Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said. “We had a lot of ‘Grade A’ chances early and we don’t put them away it gives (Girard) confidence and he plays well. Girard kept getting better and better and feeling it.”

The shutout was not only Girard’s second of the season but also his second straight.

“He played extremely well,” Edina coach Curt Giles said. “When Connor is playing well, he makes it look easy. Tonight was a tough game but he made the good saves and he made the saves he was supposed to make. He neutralized everything.”

Girard has not allowed a goal in 112 minutes and 56 seconds, since the third period of the Hornets' Saturday, Jan. 22, game against Minnetonka. He made 22 saves to shut out Totino-Grace 5-0 on Saturday, Jan. 29 – Girard did not play against Cretin-Derham Hall (Jan. 25) or Hopkins (Jan. 27).

Even with his recent success, Girard is not getting ahead of things.

“We’re pretty pumped, but we’ll get back to work tomorrow,” Girard said. “Of course we’re happy but we have work to do. Gotta love this confidence, and every night is going to be a battle but in the end I think tonight will help us a lot.”

Scoring the big goal

Edina senior forward Jake Sampson (No. 8) buries his game-winning goal past Eden Prairie goaltender Andrew Ford (No. 29) during the Hornets' 3-0 victory over the Eagles on Thursday, Feb. 3. Photo by Adam Crane

With scoreless first and second periods, the Thursday, Feb. 3, game between Edina and Eden Prairie was literally up for grabs heading into the third period.

“Going into an away barn (between the second and third) and you’re rivals; zero-zero, can’t ask for anything better,” Edina’s Jake Sampson said. “You just can’t ask for anything better than a zero-zero game.”

Sampson may not have asked for a game-winning goal, but it’s exactly what he got.

“We couldn’t get it set up in the zone at first so I was just floating up the blue line waiting for a breakout and I was like, ‘Come on, let’s go, let’s go, let’s get it set up’ so I could do my job and sit in front,” Sampson said. “Then we had a nice break out. Michael Sit came flying down the boards, went around the net and threw it in front. I think it went off my shin pads, off the goalie’s pad and then it was just sitting there.

“I just banged it home.”

Sampson may have had the best view in the house as the game-winning goal came with several skaters crowded in front of the net.

“I couldn’t see anything,” Edina coach Curt Giles said. “It was just a scramble in front of the net and Jake (Sampson) went to the net hard and shoveled it in.

“Usually that’s what happens in a game like this. There’s a close contest like this game was, and what ends up happening is that you end up with a shot and a rebound laying around like that and traditionally that’s what happens.”

The power-play goal gave the Hornets a lead they wouldn’t lose and gave an extra boost of confidence to their goaltender, Connor Girard, who made 36 saves for the 3-0 shutout victory.

“It was nice to get that first one but with 6 minutes left and Eden Prairie on the other side we had to keep working,” Girard said. “We did that and we got the second one. I think it was just a testament to the team and how hard we worked.”

“It was late in the game, it was a big goal and it was a low-scoring game so one goal could be the difference,” Sampson said. “We tried to play defensively the rest of the game and win it.”

Sampson has six points (two goals, four assists) in his last four games and can tell his game is starting to heat up.

“Playing with Michael Sit and Steven Fogarty helps,” Sampson said. “I think we click pretty well and we’re playing well together.”

Kyle Rau vs. Max Everson

Eden Prairie senior forward Kyle Rau (left) and Edina's Max Everson collide during the Thursday, Feb. 3, game. Photo by Adam Crane

It’s no secret that Eden Prairie and Edina are rivals.

The two teams were not fans of each other prior to this season, and now with both teams competing in the same conference the matchup is an all-out battle.

There was another matchup on the ice, however, within the big game: the battle of several Division I recruits and in particular, a single one-on-one battle stood out.

Eden Prairie’s Kyle Rau against Edina’s Max Everson.

“I really got a kick out of was the one-on-one with Max (Everson) and (Kyle) Rau,” Edina coach Curt Giles said. “Two of the best kids in the state of Minnesota in high school hockey going at it right there, one-on-one. That (Kyle) Rau is just a fabulous player. He works hard, he’s strong, he’s got great balance and I think that Max has played as well as anyone in the state of Minnesota.

“Those two kids going at it was pretty fun to watch.”

For next season, Rau has committed to Minnesota and Everson has committed to Harvard. Both players also participated in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League this past fall and Everson spent time playing for the U.S. National Development Team Program’s U-18 team in Ann Arbor, Mich. as well.

For this round in high school, it seems as though Everson won the battle as Rau was kept off the score sheet.

“You just gotta be ready for anything with (Rau),” Everson said. “When he’s got speed and hands like that, nothing is out of reach for him. Whether he’s just going to shoot it and put it in from the outside or if he’s going to try and beat you through the middle, you just gotta be prepared. You have to make sure you’re in good position, have your head on a swivel, just the basics and make sure that’s all solid.”

Although the Everson-on-Rau matchup was seen frequently, Giles admitted that was not the game plan.

“We don’t design taking Kyle Rau out of the game,” Giles said. “That’s the ultimate goal – to keep him off the score sheet – but we don’t design a plan where we shadow him or play somebody against him. We just have to really be aware when he’s on the ice. He’s such a special player. It’s best if he doesn’t have the puck, if you think about it. If he doesn’t have the puck it’s kind of nice, life’s a little easier. But we didn’t have a real plan to do something like that.”

The Rivalry Continues

With sub-zero temperatures outside, things were definitely heating up in the Eden Prairie Community Center.

The rivalry game between Edina and Eden Prairie provided thrills as the two teams battled it out with each other.

“It’s Eden Prairie and Edina,” Edina goaltender Connor Girard said. “It’s always a bitter rivalry. We’re good friends off the ice but on the ice it’s the other way.”

Things escalated with 37 seconds remaining as Edina’s Michael Sit and Eden Prairie’s Dan Molenaar tussled near center ice.

“We got some feisty players on our team, as do they,” Edina defenseman Max Everson said. “There was round one last game so I was actually expecting that at some point. We don’t like each other when we’re on the ice, it’s as simple as that. We’re friends off the ice, but on the ice we play each other enough times where you get sick of them and sick of their antics.

“Sometimes the fuse runs a little low and stuff like that happens.”

Everson may not have been the only one anticipating some chippy play.

“When we’re playing Eden Prairie, every game is going to be a battle,” Edina’s Jake Sampson said. “I know like half the guys pretty well and it just fuels the competition. You want it even more.”

In total, there were 51 penalty minutes in the Lake Conference matchup.

“We’ve had some trouble with stuff like that,” Everson said. “You can just look at the stat sheets and you can easily tell, discipline has to be there because otherwise it’s going to hurt us in the long run. It makes it interesting for the fans, I’m sure, and riles up the crowd and everything but there’s no need for that.

“You can’t fight in high school, there’s no point. You can’t fight so hit them clean or forget it and keep playing. Actually the first game I got involved in that. It’s really easy to stand here and tell you, you gotta forget it. You just gotta be smart.”

Edina coach Curt Giles was not impressed with the emotional explosion at the end of the game.

“That’s too bad,” Giles said. “Stuff like that happens but all of those kids are competitive. They worked hard tonight and sometimes frustrations get to a certain level where stuff like that happens. It’s too bad it had to happen but nobody got hurt.”

Although the Hornets made it clear that they are good off-ice friends with the Eagles, don’t expect them to exchange text messages anytime soon.

“No, that will be a little later,” Sampson said.

Edina junior forward Ben Walker (No. 14) scores his third period goal during the Thursday, Feb. 3, game against Eden Prairie. Photo by Adam Crane

Q and A with Edina coach Curt Giles

Question: That was a Lake Conference battle that saw hard hits, a lot of action, and goals that were hard to come by. What was this game like from your perspective?
Answer: We knew it was going to be a tough game. When you come into this building you know you’re in for a game every year, every time. I thought the kids played well. They stuck with the game plan, they worked hard defensively. They got into a little trouble with penalties in the first period and had us running around a little bit but we played well.

Q: How talented is this Eden Prairie team?
A: I thought they played extremely well, too. They got a very good hockey team. I still consider them one of the top teams in the state, there’s no question about that. We did coming into it and we do leaving the building.

Q: What was the game plan for tonight?
A: We just wanted to make sure that as a team we played well defensively, we wanted to forecheck smartly, backcheck smartly and just work hard. That’s what we got tonight.

Q: What does a win like this do for the Hornets that are bouncing back from some tough losses a couple weeks ago?
A: I think we’re getting better and that’s what we strive for. Hopefully we can take this as something to move forward and make that step on the ladder to get better. The ultimate goal: we all know what that is. It’s a tough month and it’s a good month of good competition but we just want to continue as a team and continue to get better.

Q and A with Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith

Question: You lost senior forward Des Shavlik to an injury early in the first period. Was it difficult to adjust the forward lines?
Answer: It was a combination of that and we lose Mason Bergh right away. So we lose two guys and we’re down to eight forwards for the first period. Then we have penalties to kill so we have to overplay the Raths and the Raus and (Luc) Gerdes. But what do you say? You give Edina credit. They were opportunistic, they played well defensively - we didn’t get too many second shot opportunities - and that’s what they do well.

Q: What were some of the positives Eden Prairie is looking to take away from this game?
A: We had the puck for most of the game. They came out and got us early and we responded really well the last two periods. I don’t know if the right team won tonight but the team that was opportunistic, played hard and played smart, they did win.

Q: What was this hard-fought rivalry game in your opinion?
A: I think it was a late season tune-up. We take away from it that we still need to keep getting better. There’s some areas that we’re not there yet. One area is that we need to play more disciplined. People are going to hook us and slash us and we all just have to suck it up and play.

Statistics, Summary

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Three Stars

1. Connor Girard, Edina
It's easy to tell when a goaltender is 'in the zone' because the scoreboard for the opposing team isn't very high. In this case, the scoreboard for the Eagles read '0' as Girard recorded his second consecutive shutout - the other shutout coming Jan. 29, against Totino-Grace. The senior goaltender made 36 brilliant saves and surrendered very few - if any - rebounds during the heated rivalry game. Girard has not allowed a goal in 112 minutes, 56 seconds (since Minnetonka senior forward Connor Ryan scored against him at the 6:04 mark of the third period during the Saturday, Jan. 22, game).

2. Jake Sampson, Edina

There may have been 5:42 left in the game but Sampson's third period power-play goal set the tone for the remainder of the contest. The senior forward pounded in a juicy rebound in front of the net that proved to be the game-winner for the Hornets.

3. Ben Walker, Edina

Speed is the name of the game for Ben Walker. The speedy junior forward created several chances and capitalized on a three-on-one for the Hornets, rocketing a wrist shot top shelf that provided insurance as his goal game just 3:21 after Sampson's game-winner.

Edina senior forward Jake Sampson. Photo by Adam Crane

Game Recap

Edina scored three goals in the last six minutes of the third period and Connor Girard made 36 saves as the Hornets defeated Eden Prairie 3-0 on Thursday, Feb. 3, at the Eden Prairie Community Center.

Jake Sampson provided the first goal for the Hornets on the power play with 5:42 left in the final frame and teammate Ben Walker added an insurance goal 3:21 later. Bo Brauer finished off the Edina scoring with an empty net goal with 1:36 remaining in the game.

Girard was stellar as he faced nine Eden Prairie power plays and kept the Eagles off the score sheet. The senior goaltender was peppered with 10 shots or more each period.

Andrew Ford made 17 saves for the Eagles and Eden Prairie's Kyle Rau was held off the score sheet for the second consecutive game against the Hornets.

Edina will continue Lake Conference play on Saturday, Feb. 5, when they travel to Plymouth Ice Center to take on Wayzata for a 2:30 p.m. game.

Eden Prairie look to rebound from the loss as they host Buffalo on Saturday, Feb. 5, at 3 p.m.

Edina senior goaltender Connor Girard. Photo by Adam Crane

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