Eagan junior Max Elsenheimer fires a shot at the Bloomington Jefferson net and goaltender Connor Norberg as Jaguars defenders Adam Willson, left, and Riley Garlock converge on the play. Photo by Loren Nelson
The weather has been so wet, snowy, cold and flat out lousy this spring that athletic directors and coaches will agree to most anything if it means getting a game played.
Thus, some start times come in the wee hours of the morning. Other games last late into the night.
And because of the rash of postponements in an already short season, jam-packed schedules mean games will come in machine gun style rat-ta-tat frequency for most teams.
Eagan kicked off a stretch of six games in 10 days by easing past Bloomington Jefferson 15-5 on Tuesday, April 30, at Bloomington Jefferson High School.
The No. 3-ranked Wildcats (3-0) play again on Thursday and Friday of this week and Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of next.
“We’re doing three games each week for the next couple of weeks,” Eagan coach Bob Felter said. “I don’t know exactly how it works. I just want all the kids to have games.
“I’ve got a big bench, and we are going to play everybody.”
The fatigue factor certainly will be diminished if Eagan continues to play like it did against the Jaguars. The Wildcats led 6-0 after the first quarter and were ahead 9-0 late in the opening half before Jefferson scored its first goal.
Eagan junior Max Elsenheimer had a goal and three assists against Bloomington Jefferson. Photo by Loren Nelson
Felter emptied his bench in the fourth quarter, giving his starters plenty of R and R. Not that they needed it. These are high schoolers brimming with energy, after all.
Last Thursday the Wildcats played Rosemount in a 9:30 p.m. start indoors at the West St. Paul Regional Athletics Center.
“I did all I could do to go home and go to bed,” Felter said about the aftermath of Eagan’s 17-13 victory.
As for his players, well, sleep didn’t have a slot on their itinerary. Not right away.
“They went bowling,” Felter said. “It was like eleven-thirty, twelve o’clock. They had the next day off, so …”
Wildcats junior Max Elsenheimer claims he bowled a 205 that night.
“Oh, I am, without a doubt,” he said when asked who is the team’s best bowler.
The chemistry Elsenhiemer and senior Michael Kukulski built as bowling teammates carried over to the field on Tuesday. Elsenheimer assisted on three of Kukulski’s four goals, and the duo combined for eight points.
“Obviously Kukulski is a on roll,” Felter said. “He’s not missing in practice, either. I mean he just doesn’t miss the goal.”
Kukulski and Elsenheimer represent just a piece of the Wildcats’ scoring firepower. Seniors Connor Simpson and Cullen Willox are two more Eagan veterans with proven scoring ability.
Senior Thomas Powers scored the first two goals against Jefferson. Senior Nicholas Forsha also scored twice.
“We were just moving the ball well, running our offense pretty well and our plays were working,” Kukulski said. “It was pretty much a team effort."
-- Loren Nelson
Defending state champion Eastview was ranked No. 1 in the state when it needed double overtime to get past Bloomington Jefferson 8-7 in double overtime on Friday, April 26.
The surprisingly close game seemingly served as a coming out party for a Jaguars team featuring a bumper crop of young, talented midfielders and attackmen.
Bloomington Jefferson, which went 6-9 last season, had a chance to entrench itself as South Suburban Conference contender and legitimate state top 10 team with another strong outing on Tuesday against No. 3 Eagan. But a slow start proved devastating for the Jaguars, who fell behind 9-0 in the first half.
Bloomington Jefferson sophomore midfielder Malik Ekpenyong. Photo by Loren Nelson
“We couldn’t get possessions early in the game,” Jaguars coach Scott Cater said. “We were dropping the ball. We couldn’t pick up ground balls. And we just got behind. We were playing from behind the rest of the game. So those initial possessions hurt us.”
Despite Tuesday’s lopsided loss, Jefferson has all the markings of a team on the rise. Ryan Graff, the Jaguars’ leading scorer this season, ranks among the state’s top freshmen. Standout midfielder Malik Ekpenyong is a sophomore. Charlie Straus, a sophomore midfielder, scored two gorgeous goals on Tuesday against the Wildcats.
“The future is looking good,” Cater said. “And that is what we are looking for. It’s early in the season with young players, and we’re trying to push them and show them the right way. And these kids are dedicated to learn. This is a great group to work with.
“They are focused, they are fired up. They want to do better. I think we are heading in the right direction.”
-- Loren Nelson
Michael Kukulski scored four goals, helping No. 3-ranked Eagan roll past Bloomington Jefferson 15-5 on Tuesday, April 30, at Bloomington Jefferson High School.
Kukulski scored two of his goals in the first quarter when the Wildcats (3-0) separated themselves right away from the Jaguars (1-2), outscoring them 6-0.
Kukulski scored his third goal after back-to-back Bloomington Jefferson goals spanning the second third quarters, halting any momentum the Jaguars had gained. Kukulski's final goal gave Eagan a 13-3 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Max Elsenheimer had three assists, all of them coming on Kukulski goals. Elsenheimer also had a goal of his own, scoring during the first-quarter outburst.
Connor Simpson and Thomas Powers formed another in-sync Eagan duo. Simpson assisted on both of Powers' goals, and each finished with two goals and two assists.
Eagan showed superior speed, pushing a pace Jefferson couldn't match. Twelve Eagan players tallied at least a point, and eight scored at least one goal.
Luke Westrum stopped 12 of 17 shots for a .706 save percentage for the Wildcats.
Jefferson's Charlie Strauss scored two goals. His goal in the first quarter was an impressive feat, running between four Eagan defenders in front of the net before depositing the ball in goal.
-- Trevor Squire
Eagan's Michael Kukulski, left.
1. Michael Kukulski, Eagan
The senior attackman is deadly accurate, as he proved time and time against the Jaguars. Kukulski scored consecutive goals 1 minute, 12 seconds apart to put Eagan ahead 5-0 in the first quarter. Kukulski, who led the Wildcats with 32 goals in 13 games last season, added another two more goals in the third quarter.
2. Max Elsenheimer, Eagan
The junior midfielder was involved in three of Eagan’s six first-quarter goals, showing great chemistry with Kukulski as the duo repeatedly picked apart the Jaguars’ defense. Elsenheimer finished with a goal and three assists.
3. Charlie Straus, Bloomington Jefferson
The sophomore midfielder finally put the Jaguars on the board with 4:54 left in the first half. His goal provided a much-needed morale boost, and he added another with 31 seconds left in the opening half.
-- Loren Nelson