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Eden Prairie gets long-awaited win

By Loren Nelson, Editor, 02/19/11, 10:00PM CST


Luc Gerdes' late goal allows Eagles to slip past rival Edina in Braemar thriller

Eden Prairie senior Luc Gerdes (28) scored with just more than a minute remaining as the Eagles beat Edina. Photo by Helen Nelson

Eden Prairie's Luc Gerdes celebrates his goal late in the third period against Edina. Photo by Helen Nelson

Dan Molenaar used the term puck luck.

What is puck luck, you say?

Well, when an Edina defenseman goes to clear the zone, but ends up shooting the puck off a teammate’s helmet, and then it lands on the stick of Eden Prairie’s Luc Gerdes, who happens to be standing alone in the slot with the game tied and less than 2 minutes on the clock, yes, that could certainly qualify as puck luck.

“What a gift,” Molenaar said about the crazy sequence of events that led to Gerdes’ winning goal in the Eagles’ 5-4 victory over the Hornets on Saturday, Feb. 19, in front of a near-capactiy crowd of about 3,000 at Braemar Arena in Edina.

Gerdes said he wasn’t sure how he ended up with the puck in prime scoring location and, frankly, he didn’t care.

“I just knew I had to finish,” Gerdes said. “I saw (Edina goaltender Connor Girard) was down. He’s tough to beat, so I knew I had to find my spot. Luckily I hit it.”

The goal was Gerdes’ second of the game and 23rd this season, second most on the Eagles. He is a big-time scorer, as he showed on the winner by waiting that extra fraction of a second to spot his opening over Girard’s shoulder.

“It was a huge goal, an absolutely huge goal,” Molenaar said about Gerdes’ heroics after the No. 2-ranked Eagles (18-5-2) beat the No. 6 Hornets (15-7-2) for the first time in three seasons. “He came through in the clutch there. He played a great game. He stepped up and buried the puck.”

Eden Prairie's Kyle Rau works with the puck as Edina defenseman Matt Nelson gives chase. Photo by Helen Nelson

If anyone was due a fortuitous bounce, it was Gerdes. He was flying around the ice all night, creating chances with his speed and tenaciousness. He also was sticking his nose in the crease going after loose pucks.

Gerdes, in one instant, was both lucky and good when he scored the winner with 1:14 left in the third.

“Any time you turn the puck over against a good team, things like that are going to happen,” Edina coach Curt Giles said. “We turned it over one too many times, and they made a good shot.”

For Eden Prairie’s seniors, players such as Molenaar and Gerdes, the victory on the final day of the regular season was especially sweet as it marked the first time they had defeated Edina at the varsity level in three seasons. Most of the Eagles seniors were part of the state Class 2A championship squad two seasons ago as sophomores.

“We last beat them in Bantam A,” Gerdes said. “It was huge to get them tonight. Tonight was a big night. Now we’ve got a lot of momentum going into the playoffs.”

The victory wrapped up the Lake Conference championship for Eden Prairie in its first season in the conference’s most recent alignment that includes four of the state’s heaviest hitters in Eden Prairie, Edina, Wayzata and Minnetonka.

“In my opinion its the best conference in the state,” Gerdes said. “It’s pretty unbelievable.”

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Game Recap

Senior Luc Gerdes scored with 1:14 left in the third period as Eden Prairie beat arch rival Edina 5-4 in to earn the Lake Conference title on Saturday, Feb. 19, in front of a near-capacity crowd of about 3,000 at Braemar Arena in Edina.

Gerdes scored after an Edina clearing attempt bounced off the helmet of a Hornets player, the puck landing squarely on Gerdes’ stick. He took his time with the puck, waiting for Edina goaltender Connor Girard to go down before lifting a shot high into the net.

The goal, Gerdes’ second of the game, allowed the No. 2-ranked Eagles (18-5-2) to beat the No. 6 Hornets (15-7-2) for the first time in three seasons. Eden Prairie’s current crop of seniors, a group that won a state Class 2A title two seasons ago as sophomores, never had defeated Edina at the varsity level.

Jack McCartan, David Rath and Kyle Rau also scored for Eden Prairie.

Steven Fogarty and Ben Walker each had two goals for Edina.

Edina, the defending state Class 2A champion, played without standout senior defenseman Max Everson. The Harvard recruit, widely considered the state’s top defenseman, suffered a broken left wrist in a Feb. 10 victory over Minnetonka and watched the game in street clothes. Everson is expected to return to the lineup in time for the Section 2AA semifinals.

Eden Prairie never trailed. The Eagles led 2-0 in the first period before Fogarty scored to make it 2-1 heading into the second.

Rath’s goal put the Eagles ahead 3-1, but Edina rallied to tie it at 3. A highlight-reel shorthanded goal by Rau in the second period put Eden Prairie ahead 4-3, but Walker tied it at 4 with just more than a minute left in the second period.

Senior Andrew Ford made 28 saves for Eden Prairie, while Girard had 35 saves for the Hornets.

Three Stars

1. Luc Gerdes, Eden Prairie
Yes, the senior forward was in the right place at the opportune time when a lucky bounce put the puck on the stick. But Gerdes had the wherewithal to take his time with the puck, scooping it high over Edina goaltender Connor Girard. Gerdes finished with two goals, giving him 23 this season.

2. Steven Fogarty, Edina
Fogarty, a senior forward and Mr. Hockey finalist, scored twice for the Hornets and rang a shot of the crossbar. He was a threat to score almost every shift.

3. Kyle Rau, Eden Prairie
The senior Mr. Hockey finalist had the huge Braemar Arena crowd buzzing after his shorthanded goal in the second period. Rau beat an Edina defenseman by slipping the puck through his skates, then scored while being hauled down in the crease.

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