Eastview's Nick Abbott leaves Eagan goaltender Luke Westrum in the dust after scoring a first-half goal. Photo by Loren Nelson
Eastview’s “Dark Army” marched off the field in formation. No smiles, no talking, no joy.
The defending state champion Lightning were headed straight for their bus and a tongue lashing from coach Tim Roche.
Eagan players, meanwhile, milled about on their home field long after the scoreboard went dark. They cracked a few smiles as they gathered their gear, answered questions from the media and shot the breeze with coach Bob Felter.
Distinguishing the winners from the losers in the latest chapter of one the state’s fiercest rivalries was more than a little complicated on this night, given that the final score said Eastview 12, Eagan 9 but the postgame mood read heavily in the Wildcats’ favor.
“I feel like we really came together at the end tonight and pulled together as a team,” Eagan senior Michael Kukulski said after the Thursday, May 9, matchup at Eagan High School.
Eastview's Ryan McNamara, left, zips around Eagan defender Andrew Markland. Photo by Loren Nelson
No. 2-ranked Eastview scored five consecutive goals to close the third quarter and take a 12-5 lead. The No. 3 Wildcats, playing without standout starting midfielders Cullen Willox and Max Elsenheimer because of illness, appeared to be running on fumes. The only question remaining about the outcome was how badly Eagan would be blown out.
A funny thing happened on the way to the beatdown. Eagan’s Shane Kalb scored 2 minutes, 16 seconds into the fourth quarter, providing a spark. Then Mark Woodcock scored 81 seconds later, lighting a fuse. Kalb, a sophomore, poured gas on the comeback bid with another goal just 11 seconds after Woodcock’s.
The crowd was fully engaged and Eagan’s sideline was a mosh pit of energy after a series of Eastview penalties, including a non-releasable 2-minute call on Mitch Beattie, gave the Wildcats a rarely seen 6-on-3 man-up advantage with just more than 3 minutes remaining.
Kukulski scored just seconds into the man-up opportunity for Eagan’s fourth unanswered goal in the final quarter, but the rally ended there.
“We got back into it,” Felter said. “So we were happy with that.”
Eagan sophomore midfielder Shane Kalb scored twice in the fourth quarter. Photo by Loren Nelson
Roche said he was upset that his team didn’t finish the Wildcats when they were down. He wasn’t happy with all the penalties, either. One of the late penalties was an unsportsmanlike infraction on the Lightning bench for disputing a call.
How the final quarter played out is significant in that there is a strong possibility these teams could meet again in the Section 3 playoffs. The Wildcats can find comfort in their final outburst and the knowledge Willox and Elsenheimer likely will be back in the lineup should the teams meet again.
“I would love to play those guys again, especially with some of our hockey cousins (Willox and Elsenheimer are also hockey standouts) coming back,” Kukulski said. “Playing them again would be nice.”
Felter declined to use the absence of two of his star players as an excuse for the loss.
“We just played our best and they played their best and here we are,” he said.
An inability to clear the ball from their defensive zone in the closing minutes and a penchant for turnovers were the most obvious reasons for Eagan’s loss, in Felter’s estimation.
“For us to throw it away . . . but that has been the whole season for us so far,” Felter said. “We’re a run-and-gun team, so you can’t really yell at the kids if they try to force something. And that’s probably what happened.”
Senior attackman Tanner Hamill provided the spark for No. 2-ranked Eastview, scoring three goals and adding two assists in a 12-9 win over No. 3 Eagan on Thursday, May 9, at Eagan High School.
Eastview (6-0) led 6-3 at halftime and scored five unanswered goals to close the third quarter and extend its lead to 12-5.
Lightning leading scorer Ryan McNamara, a senior attackman, and Hamill each scored their third goals in the quarter.
Eagan sophomore midfielder Shane Kalb saw extended playing time because of the loss of standouts Cullen Willox and Max Elsenheimer to illness, and Kalb came alive in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats (6-2) outscored the Lightning 4-0 in the final quarter, and Kalb had two of the goals and an assist on Michael Kukulski's goal that completed the scoring with 3 minutes, 34 seconds remaining.
Kukulski’s goal came with Eagan on a rare 6-on-3 man-up advantage. Kukulski scored just seconds into the man-up opportunity, but the Wildcats were unable to capitalize further.
Thomas Powers and Nick Forsha each had two goals for Eagan. Mitch Beattie scored twice and added an assist for the defending state champion Lightning.
-- Trevor Squire
Eastview's Ryan McNamara. Photo by Loren Nelson
1. Ryan McNamara, Eastview
The senior attackman flashed his speed, speed and more speed on numerous occasions while scooting past Eagan’s defense on his multiple forays to the goal. McNamara, who has committed to play at Marquette, scored three times, with one goal coming in each of the first three quarters.
2. Tanner Hamill, Eastview
Hamill notched two goals in the third quarter when the Lightning outscored the Wildcats 6-2 and seemingly had the game all but sewn up. Hamill’s goal with 44 seconds left in the first half provided a huge lift for Eastview.
3. Shane Kalb, Eagan
Kalb, a sophomore midfielder, could be labeled “The Next One” for the Wildcats, as in the next big scorer for a program that routinely churns out standout snipers. Kalb scored twice and added an assist – all in the fourth quarter the Wildcats made their big comeback attempt. Kalb has 11 goals and four assists in eight games this season.
-- Loren Nelson