Eden Prairie's Charlie Venable (4) scores into an empty net ahead of Eastview's Scotty Pugmire (9) after a turnover by Lightning goaltender Jeremy LeClaire. Photo by Loren Nelson
It’s much too early to dive into this topic, but let’s go for it anyway: Greatest Team In State History.
Eden Prairie took a big step toward at least elbowing its way into the discussion by completing an undefeated regular season with an 8-6 victory over defending state champion Eastview on Thursday, May 23, at Eastview High School.
“We’re a great team, we know we are a great team,” Eagles senior Jake Woodring said. “We’ve got guys on this team that have been playing together for four or five years.”
Eden Prairie (13-0) was miles from great on Thursday. At least that was postmortem from the Eagles’ sideline.
“We’re just kind of disappointed in the way we played,” Woodring said. “We could have played a lot better tonight. We came out slow, made mistakes, pissed the ball away.”
Eagles coach Ryan Ward went so far as to call it one of the worst performances by an Eden Prairie team he has ever seen. Too many mental mistakes, he said.
“We were doing things I’ve never seen us do before,” Ward said. “If we play like this again, it becomes a crapshoot. Who knows?”
Out of Eden Prairie’s 13 wins this season, only three were by less than eight goals. The Eagles have allowed more than four goals just four times. This is a team with exceptional speed and athleticism, extraordinary depth and an abundance of senior leadership.
The standards are such for No. 1-ranked Eden Prairie that beating a No. 4 Eastview team with just two losses before Thursday wasn’t good enough.
“We came out with the W, but still we have to do better than what we did,” senior defenseman Kyle Theilman said. “We have to pay 110 percent every game. We could lose at anytime. Just because we are undefeated doesn’t mean we are impossible to beat. “
Eastview outscored the Eagles 3-2 in the second. Lightning coach Tim Roche was about as happy as could be expected, given his team had just lost.
“I think we both came out here and wanted to see, athlete to athlete, where we stand,” Roche said. “And we’re comfortable.
“It’s not a bad loss for us.”
Roche said neither team showed more than its base defense.
The deep strategic moves will come in the state tournament, should the teams get that far.
-- Loren Nelson
Eden Prairie junior Max Fahey was solid in goal for Eagles in their victory over Eastview on Thursday. Photo by Loren Nelson
Junior Charlie Venable scored three goals and goaltender Max Fahey had 21 saves as No. 1-ranked Eden Prairie completed an undefeated regular season with an 8-6 win over defending state champion Eastview on Thursday, May 23, at Eastview High School.
Venable and senior Jake Woodring scored in the fourth quarter for Eden Prairie (13-0) as it held on to beat the No. 4 Lightning (10-3) in a rematch of last year's state championship game.
Eden Prairie's juggernaut offense has been difficult to stop all season, with seven players registering more than 20 points for an Eagles team averaging more than 13 goals per game. Eden Prairie struggled to get in gear in the second half, however, as the Lightning capitalized on several Eagles turnovers and scored the only goal in third quarter.
Mitch Beattie and Tanner Hamill each had two goals for the Lightning, and Beattie also assisted Hamill on his second goal. The Lightning never got closer than two goals in the second half.
Ryan McNamara, Eastview's leading scorer, had a quiet night. He scored just one goal while being shadowed by Eden Prairie defenseman Kyle Theilman. Theilman used his long pole to his advantage angling the speedy McNamara away from many scoring opportunities.
Eden Prairie freshman J.D. Spielmann scored two goals.
Eden Prairie is seeded No. 1 in Section 2 and will play the winner of a quarterfinal matchup between Hopkins and Minnetonka in the section semifinals.
Eastview's postseason opponent has yet to be determined.
-- Trevor Squire
1. Charlie Venable, Eden Prairie
“Sir Charles” as nicknamed by the Eagles’ public address announcer, has had a golden touch around the net the past couple weeks. The junior speedster scored three goals against the Lightning, giving him 12 in his last four games. The turbo scoring boost comes after he scored 13 goals in his first nine games.
2. Max Fahey, Eden Prairie
The junior goaltender made several difficult saves, especially late in the second half with Eastview attempting to slice the Eagles' two-goal lead. Fahey was a study of calmness despite being at the center of a storm of activity, and he was solid clearing the ball.
3. Mitch Beattie, Eastview
In a game in which goals were exceedingly difficult to execute, the senior midfielder scored twice and added an assist. His man-up goal early in the fourth quarter pulled the Lightning to within 7-5.
-- Loren Nelson