Eden Prairie's Garrett Smith, right, scored in overtime on Friday night to beat Hermantown and goaltender Cole Manahan. Photo by Loren Nelson, legacyhockeyphotography.net
Garrett Smith underwent brain surgery when he was 2 years old, long before he could even dream of playing varsity hockey, much less entertain the notion of scoring a dramatic, game-winning goal.
“When I had that tumor, my parents didn’t know for sure if I was going to make it,” Smith said after scoring in overtime to lift Eden Prairie to a 5-4 victory over Hermantown on Friday night. “They didn’t know if it was cancerous or not.”
Smith broke his leg that same year the tumor was removed. When he was 4, and then again at age 14, he broke that same leg again.
“It’s awesome to have this opportunity in life and to make the most of it,” Smith said.
Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith has seen most everything in his 25 years behind the bench. But he’s never seen his son score his first varsity goal.
“You know, I would have been happy for anybody,” Smith said after the Eagles’ victory in the inaugural North South Hockey Classic that opened earlier in the night with Brainerd beating Benilde-St. Margaret’s 4-0. “I feel good for him because he has had to overcome a lot to become a player on a high school team.”
There was nothing pretty about Smith’s winner. The play started with an Andrew Erwin shot from the point. After that the hockey gods stepped in and had their say.
“I was just trying to hit that puck as hard as I could,” said Erwin, a senior defenseman. “And luckily it hit off someone’s knee, then someone’s face. Then Chris and Garrett both came in.”
Chris would be Eagles power forward Chris Konin, who took a swipe at the puck before it landed on the opportunistic Smith’s stick.
“It wasn’t my play,” Smith said. “My guys set it up for me. The opportunity came and I just capitalized on it. I’ve heard that since Pee Wee to go to the front of the net. That’s where you get the goals.”
For Eden Prairie, the tournament is serving as a tribute to Steve Olinger, their former assistant coach who passed away in June. The white-haired, always jovial Olinger, nicknamed “The Governor” by Lee Smith for his ability to spark up long conversations with friends and strangers alike, was beloved by Eagles players. And no player had a closer relationship with Olinger than Garrett Smith.
“He was like a second father to me,” Smith said. “He was always there, asking me how I was doing, giving me the jolly time. I miss him so much.
“This is his tournament, and we just wanted this one so much for him.”
Erwin said he was happy to see Smith score the winner. Erwin acknowledged that Smith, who played on the junior varsity last season, has had to work for every moment of success. When Erwin sends out team-wide texts to attend workout sessions, he said Smith is always the first to respond.
“He deserved it,” Erwin said about Smith scoring the game-winner.
Garrett Smith, left, reaches to stop Hermantown's Tyler Watkins on a rush to the net. Photo by Loren Nelson, legacyhockeyphotograhy.net
Junior forward Garrett Smith, son of Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith, scored his first varsity goal with 1:22 left in overtime to lift the Eagles to a 5-4 victory over Hermantown on Friday night in the opening round of the inaugural North South Hockey Classic at the Eden Prairie Community Center.
Smith’s power-play goal came after an Andrew Erwin shot from the point and Chris Konin’s jab at the puck in the slot. Smith, stationed in front of Hermantown goaltender Cole Manahan for just such an opportunity, swatted the puck into the net to touch off a wild Eagles' celebration.
Hermantown’s Blake Biondi forced the extra period when he scored with 1:07 left in the third. Jacob Herter also scored for the Hawks, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A in the latest state coaches poll, late in the third as they rallied from a 4-2 deficit.
Max Argetsinger, Jack Jensen and Konin scored consecutive goals for the Eagles in the second as they surged to a 3-1 lead. Brady Baker’s goal, a tough-angle snipe with 38.1 seconds left in the second, pulled Hermantown (1-2-1) to within 3-2 entering the third.
Sam Wilhite’s goal 4:10 into the third gave the Eagles (1-1-0) their 4-2 lead.
Hermantown’s Manahan finished with 40 saves while Eden Prairie’s Andrew Dietrich had 34.
Sam Wilhite of Eden Prairie and Sam High of Hermantown race for the puck during the first period on Friday night at the Eden Prairie Community Center. Photo by Loren Nelson, legacyhockeyphotography.net