Eagan's Dan Bausman watches as the ball eludes Rosemount goaltender Chase Olson. Photo by Loren Nelson
Eagan's offense was humming along like a well-oiled machine.
The Wildcats scored all their goals in the final three quarters in their 15-4 win over Rosemount on Wednesday, March 30, in the Section 3 semifinals at Eagan High School.
It seemed fair to assume that Eagan had been executing a well-designed plan of attack consisting of set plays and coordinated movement.
A real “x’s and o’s” type offense that sliced through the visiting Irish.
Instead of channeling his inner all-time NBA coaching great Phil Jackson however, Eagan coach Bob Felter decided to let his Wildcats loosen up and play pick-up style against Rosemount.
An interesting call, but one that worked to perfection for Felter.
“To give you inside information, it’s kind of like we’re running a little ‘street ball’ is what we call it,” Felter said after the game. “[Playing street ball] is fine if you have guys that are veterans and know what they’re doing, that can keep their head up, and put it in the right spot. That’s what we did, we did a lot of street ball tonight.”
Eagan junior Cullen Willox, right, stays a step ahead of Rosemount's Jake Mortenson. Photo by Loren Nelson
Felter explained that with the group of players on his roster, street ball makes a lot of sense. Since his dynamic collection of scorers are nearly all upperclassmen, they know how to handle a more free-flowing and creative offense without getting out of control.
“We have set plays, but we don’t really stick to them very strictly,” junior defenseman Andrew Markland said. “We just go out there and whatever happens happens.”
The results were fantastic on Wednesday. With eight different players scoring, Eagan peppered Rosemount with its depth.
The Wildcats feature three players (Cullen Willox, Scott Pescheret, and Calvin Lamb) who earned 2012 Second Team All-State honors and six players with more than 20 goals during the regular season.
“Our offense is doing really well I believe,” Willox said. “It’s not just one guy who’s really working, it’s six guys, so if one guy gets down and has a bad game there’s five other guys who can score.”
Although the Wildcats don’t have a typical “top-dog,” or any single person that stands out and takes control, they do have numerous stars that can hurt an opponent all over the field, another characteristic that helps his improvised offense spin.
“If you look at most state teams, they’ll have two guys, three guys, I think we have six, and they all worked together tonight,” he said. “If we have the talent then we wanna have fix, six, seven guys. Who you gonna stop? Who are you gonna pole? Who are you gonna lock? It’s very very difficult so yeah, pick your poison. It’s a great thing to have.”
Rosemount coach Lance Kuehn was in agreement.
“Eagan’s pretty good at keeping everyone active. We tried to prepare the last two days for it but they did a really good job. They’re a good team,” Kuehn said. “You can’t just try to lock out one guy; they’re not a single dimensional team.”
Eagan junior Cullen Willox, left, is also a hockey standout for the Wildcats. Photo by Loren Nelson
With the sport of lacrosse continually growing, one of the biggest groups to transition to the springtime game is hockey players.
In a state rich with on ice talent, lacrosse has been a great outlet for hockey players who love to challenge themselves in a sport that shares characteristics with hockey.
There may not be a better example than Eagan’s Cullen Willox. Scoring 38 points this past season for the fourth place Wildcats, Willox quickly made the leap onto a greener playing field once the hockey season began and started succeeding even more.
“Great player, great hockey player,” Eagan coach Bob Felter said of Willox after Eagan’s 15-4 dismantling of Rosemount on Wednesday. “He may take this as a hobby. He may never play this again as he goes to college because he’s a really good hockey player too.”
The way Willox has been playing however, he may want to consider lacrosse full time. Awarded honors as 2012 Second Team All-State, Willox scored 21 goals during the regular season and added 12 assists. On Wednesday, he had three more goals and finished the game with four points.
“There’s one of the guys, second team all-state two years in a row, no way,” Felter said. “There’s not one person in the state that can cover him one on one. He walked through three guys tonight, two or three times.
“He’s gotten bigger, he’s a big strong kid and he can impose his will on anybody. He’s got both hands, he’s got a tremendous shot and he sees the game so well. If all my guys were like that we wouldn’t have lost a game all year. That’s how highly I think of him.”
Making the transition with little time between the two seasons isn’t easy for Willox. After all, the sports require very different sets of skills.
“I missed winter ball this year and a couple captains practices because we went to state,” Willox said. “Right after hockey ended it was lacrosse right away… It takes me a couple of weeks to practice on the hands, get my feet moving and get back in shape.”
Willox also added that getting back into running shape is difficult since lacrosse requires so much short-burst and long winded endurance.
No matter what Willox likes to do in the winter, the Wildcats are happy to have him as a key member of their state championship hopes.
But which would he want more? A title in hockey or lax?
“I can’t say that,” Willox said, breaking into a big smile and a laugh. “I dunno, both in one year maybe?”
No. 4-ranked Eagan pummeled No. 6-ranked Rosemount 15-4 in a Section 3 semifinal on Wednesday, May 30, at Eagan High School in Eagan.
The Wildcats outscored Rosemount by 11 goals in the second and third quarters after a low-scoring first.
Eight players registered points for the Wildcats, who overwhelmed the Irish (12-4) with depth and ball movement.
After racingto an early 1-0 lead, everything fell apart for Rosemount, allowing the 14-2 Wildcats to move on to the Section 3 championship game against second-ranked Eastview on Friday at Farmington High School.
Junior Connor Simpson had a game-high five points, including four goals and an assist. Senior Dan Basuman also had five points, on a goal and four assists.
During their big run in the second quarter, five players scored for the Wildcats, including Simpson, Basuman, Cullen Willox, Mike Kukulski and Scott Pescheret.
Willox scored three times and notched an assist.
Pescheret, a senior with fantastic skills at winning faceoffs, scored two goals while winning 14 faceoffs, or 70 percent of the total taken.
Sophomore Carter Yepsen led Rosemount with two goals as the Irish fired 17 shots on Eagan’s Lucas Petersen, who finished with 13 saves.
1. Connor Simpson, Eagan
Simpson was king of the hill for the Wildcats, scoring four goals and tacking on an assist. Three of his goals came in the decisive second and third quarters, and he displayed great accuracy, scoring four times on six shots on net. He also had the game winner for the Wildcats.
2. Cullen Willox, Eagan
The junior midfielder had a hat trick and an assist for Eagan. Two of his goals came while streaking through the middle of the field and finishing with nice shots. On one, he used a nice spin move to shake a defender before scoring.
3. Dan Bausman, Eagan
Bausman’s stat line started to look more like a basketball point guard by the time he was finished. He had a goal and four assists, routinely finding Wildcats wide open in scoring position. Bausman led the Wildcats with 42 points in the regular season (28 goals, 14 assists).