Eden Prairie players swarm goaltender Anthony Perkins, who made a save on a point-blank shot by Eagan's Mike Kukulski with 10 seconds left to give the Eagles an 11-10 victory. Photo by Helen Nelson
The message board wisdom, such as it is, suggested that Eagan had too many goal-scorers for Eden Prairie. No way the Eagles could shut them all down.
Stop one guy, and another steps up. Stop him, and here comes another.
Eden Prairie, meanwhile, has sniper Jake Woodring. And that is all.
Or so read one scouting report.
Funny thing about all that. It was all wrong.
No. 2-ranked Eden Prairie played suffocating defense on most all of the Wildcats’ top offensive threats and unveiled a goal-scorer extraordinaire of their own in a sophomore named Charlie Venable.
All of that added up to an 11-10 Eagles’ victory over No. 1 Eagan in a matchup of two of the state’s last in a handful of unbeaten teams.
Sophomore Charlie Venable scored four goals, giving him 19 this season, against No. 1 Eagan. Photo by Helen Nelson
“Charlie Venable, that’s a name you are going to be hearing coming up through the years,” said Woodring, a junior midfielder who scored five goals against the Wildcats in the Monday, April 30, matchup at Eden Prairie High School. “I’ve been shooting with the kid a lot.
“He’s just a great player, a great kid. He works hard. That’s why he is showing up in these big games.”
Venable scored his four goals in all manner of ways – picking corners from close range, beating defenders while curling out from behind the net, whipping shots while on the run – as he established himself as the next big thing in an Eden Prairie program that has churned out top-caliber players with regularity.
Venable scored twice in the fourth quarter as the Eagles (7-0) built a five-goal lead, only to see Eagan (6-1) rally by scoring the final four.
“I don’t read or buy into anything anyone else says,” Eden Prairie coach Ryan Ward said when asked about the perceived lone-dimension (Woodring) in the Eagles’ offense. “Except for the Blake game, we’ve been over double digits in goals every game. You know what, we are a team offense. I don’t want to rely on one guy. It doesn’t work.”
As for Venable, he is part of an attack line that includes Sam Gravelle and Brooks Armitage, none of whom cut an imposing physical presence.
“I call them the Hobbits,” Ward said. “They are all 5-foot-nothing, but they are fast and tough, and they play well together.”
Eagan go-to scorers Connor Simpson, Dan Bausman and Mike Kukulski each scored one goal, well off their season averages. The Wildcats needed two-plus quarters to get their offense untracked, and then it was midfielder Cullen Willox (four goals) and sophomore Max Elsenheimer (three) who provided the spark.
“I don’t know what the turnovers were on us, but we threw the ball away every opportunity we had.
“That was a great comeback,” Eagan coach Bob Felter said. “We had a great look at the end. We were planning on going into overtime.”
As for going undefeated, well, Felter never figured on that.
I’m not downcast on (the loss),” he said. “It is a long season.”
Junior Jake Woodring scored five goals to lead No. 2-ranked Eden Prairie past top-ranked Eagan. Photo by Helen Nelson
Junior Jake Woodring scored five goals, sophomore Charlie Venable had four and junior goaltender Anthony Perkins made a series of clutch saves in the fourth quarter as No. 2-ranked Eden Prairie held off a late comeback attempt to upend No. 1-ranked Eagan 11-10 on Monday, April 30, at Eden Prairie High School.
Venable scored twice in the fourth quarter as Eden Prairie (7-0) surged to an 11-6 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining, but Eagan (6-1) scored the final four goals, including two by junior Cullen Willox.
Sophomore Max Elsenheimer’s goal with 58 seconds left pulled the Wildcats to within a goal, and junior Mike Kukulski had an open shot from close range with about 10 seconds left that Perkins blocked.
Willox scored four goals, added two assists and took over on faceoffs from teammate Scott Pescheret in the closing minutes, winning two of three draws.
Woodring, a junior who has committed to play at NCAA Division I Denver, used his unmatched speed and stop-me-if-you-can elusiveness to repeatedly burn defenders for highlight reel goals. Woodring also unleashed a cannon shot that repeatedly found the corners of the goal.
Venable’s four goals give him 19 this season, second only to Woodring’s 23. Venable has scored three or more in five of the Eagles’ seven games.
Perkins finished with eight saves, with six coming in the second half.
1. Jake Woodring, Eden Prairie
The junior is so well-rounded it’s hard to pinpoint a single best attribute. Is it the speed? The shot? The moves? Woodring isn’t afraid to share the ball either, but passing skills aside he is definitely the engine that drives the Eagles’ offense. Woodring scored five goals and added an assist in the victory.
2. Charlie Venable, Eden Prairie
A sophomore with a goal-scoring knack, Venable’s meteor burst on the state scene is reminiscent to that of Benilde-St. Margaret’s super scorer Will Hoesley a year ago. Venable scored four goals as he spearheaded the Eagles’ undersized and feisty attack line that also includes Sam Gravelle (one goal, one assist) and is nicknamed “The Hobbits.”
3. Cullen Willox, Eagan
A midfielder who plays gritty defense, Willox can also put the ball away, as he showed with his four-goal performance. He isn’t bad on faceoffs, either, winning two of three in the closing minutes to help the Wildcats mount their comeback. He can set up plays, too, as he showed by registering two assists.