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Eastview junior attackman Ryan McNamara (4) puts on the brakes ahead of Mahtomedi senior defenseman Kevin Bowditch. Photo by Helen Nelson

Sometimes, it’s the small things that please Eastview’s Ryan McNamara.
 
His team won another game to remain unbeaten, and during the victory over Mahtomedi he was allowed to field the ball.
 
Described by his coach, Tim Roche, as the best player in the state, it might sound ridiculous for a player of McNamara’s caliber to have such a low standard for enjoyment. 
 
But such is life these days for undersized, ultra-quick McNamara, a junior attackman whose days of sneaking behind defenses for open passes or catching unsuspecting goaltenders napping are long gone.
 
“I’ve been locked out in many games this year so far,” said McNamara, who leads the No. 3-ranked Lighting in scoring with 33 points, including 19 goals, "but this wasn’t really locked out.”

Mahtomedi defenseman Kevin Bowditch, left, didn't allow Eastview's Ryan McNamara much room to operate. Photo by Helen Nelson

Instead of inserting an opposing defenseman in McNamara’s hip pocket, shadowing his every move, Mahtomedi coach Brian Strauss instead opted to assign rugged defenseman Kevin Bowditch to a more convential McNamara duty. Big, strong and physical, Bowditch proved he also has the quickness to stay with McNamara, who traverses the field with the speed and change-of-direction unpredictability of a pinball.
 
“He is just a strong D, pressing out a lot,” McNamara said about Bowditch. “I got the ball a lot, at least.”
 
McNamara scored three goals, including what proved to be the game winner in the closing minutes, and added two assists. But McNamara’s impact for the unbeaten Lightning (6-0) goes well beyond the stat sheet.
 
“I think he’s maturing quite a bit, just understanding how to play offense,” Eastview assistant coach Colin Achenbach said. “It’s not about just one player, it’s six guys. He’s learned how he can affect a game with the ball or without the ball, with points or without.”
 
Jake Heppner, a senior who plays Doc Holliday to McNamara’s Wyatt Earp, has 32 points and the same ability to dish the ball to open teammates. Heppner had a goal and two assists against the Zephyrs, who were burned repeatedly by Lightning players who don’t have the name recognition as McNamara or Heppner.
 
“When we are on offense, we’ve got six guys who can score,” said Heppner, who will play at Minnesota-Duluth next season. “The nice thing is that everybody that we play thinks (McNamara) is the only one, or we’re the only ones, who can score. So that draws a lot of attention to us and opens up looks for everybody else.”
 
Shane Kenealey, Michael Stillings, Brett Schweiger, Mitch Beattie and Erik Gage also scored for the Lightning. Several of those goals came on cannon shots taken on a dead sprint. Eastview has some depth, no doubt.
 
Mahtomedi? The Zephyrs have two great ones in Bowditch and Ryan Brown, a senior midfielder who scored two goals and added three assits.
 
Brown was a dominant force on faceoffs, not just winning draws but creating scoring chances directly off them.
 
“They brought it every second of the game,” Straus said about Bowditch and Brown. “They kind of put the rest of the team on their back.”
 
Such a load wasn’t necessary for Heppner and McNamara, whose supporting cast is battled tested and plenty skilled. It was Gage who scored the overtime winner against Minnetonka to open the season.
 
“I don’t think a lot of teams expect that,” McNamara said about Eastview’s balanced scoring beyond himself and Heppner. “They just look at us, and then we try to find those open guys because we know they can do it, too.”

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Ryan McNamara

Junior attackman Ryan McNamara scored three goals, including the eventual game winner with 52 seconds remaining as No. 3-ranked Eastview held on to beat No. 7 Mahtomedi 9-8 on Saturday, April 28, at Eastview High School in a matchup of Minnesota State High School League unbeatens.
 
McNamara’s winning goal came on a feed from longtime buddy and sidekick Jake Heppner, a senior. McNamara was only 10 yards from the Mahtomedi goal when he whipped the shot past Mahtomedi junior goaltender Drew Huso.
 
Eastview (6-0) never trailed and led by as much as 4-0 early in the second quarter.
 
Mahtomedi used two late goals in the opening half to make the score 4-2 heading into the break, but Eastview surged ahead to another four-goal lead, this time at 6-2, in the third quarter.
 
Josh Kerner’s goal just as the clock expired to end the third quarter pulled the Zephyrs (5-1) to within 6-4 heading into the final quarter, and Caleb Thiegs scored just 25 seconds into the fourth to cut Eastview’s lead to 6-5.
 
Senior defenseman Kevin Bowditch and junior attackman Sam Koenig scored goals four seconds apart in the fourth quarter for the Zephyrs as the closed to within 8-7.
 
Senior Ryan Brown, who won 12 of 19 faceoffs and set up Koenig’s goal with a win and sprint downfield on a draw, scored from 30 yards out with 3.1 seconds left but was unable to win the ensuing faceoff.
 
Brown and Koenig each had two goals to pace the Zephyrs. McNamara, who also had two assists, was the only Eastview player to score more than one goal.
Despite the considerable efforts of Mahtomedi standout defenseman Kevin Bowditch, the junior attackman scored three goals and was just as effective as a setup man, notching two assists. McNamara scored twice from the 15-yard range on perfectly placed rising shots that sailed under the crossbar.
 
The senior attackman scored a goal, set up two others and was a catalyst for numerous Lightning scoring chances. 
 
The senior midfielder scored two goals, added three assists and was dominant on faceoffs, winning 12 of 19 draws. His faceoff win late in the fourth quarter led to a quick-strike goal by Sam Koenig, pulling the Zephyrs to within one with just more than 2 minutes remaining.

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