Eagan celebrates its Section 3 semifinal win over Rosemount. Photo by Katherine Matthews
It was part street ball, part pinball.
It was pass-shoot-score on most every trip down the field.
First team to 20 wins? Last team to shoot wins?
There might only be one or two teams in the state that can match high-octane Rosemount goal for goal. Eagan is one of them.
And so the Friday, May 31, Section 3 semifinal between the Irish and Wildcats at Eagan High School was as much track meet as it was lacrosse game.
“We love playing that way,” Rosemount coach Lance Kuehn said. “We love playing up and down the field. We love playing high intensity and going back and forth.
“That’s the way we enjoy the game, and I think the fans like it a little bit better.”
Who would complain? There were all manner of goals, and most every one was a gem in Eagan’s 19-15 triumph.
Eagan coach Bob Felter said he didn’t mind the game’s frenetic pace and avalanche of goals. He has unwavering confidence in his team’s offensive capabilities. Which is to say he thinks the Wildcats can gun down most any team.
“We know we can score,” Felter said. “There’s no way way we’re not going to score in double digits against any team in the state. That’s just the way we feel.”
Rosemount defenseman Riley Rutten (17) eludes Eagan midfielder Max Elsenheimer. Photo by Katherine Matthews
Eagan’s Michael Kukulski scored seven goals and Rosemount’s Carter Yepsen scored six in a mesmerizing display of pinpoint shooting. Four of Kukulski’s goals came in the fourth quarter as Eagan took control.
“One he shot from Apple Valley for god’s sakes,” Felter said about Kukulski, the Wildcats’ top scorer with 59 goals this season. “I mean he was out there. He was just inside the box. What do you say, stop? He is hitting the corner every single time. The kid is phenomenal.”
Stunningly, the teams played a 1-1 first quarter tie, signaling that it was going to be a defensive struggle. Ha, ha.
Starting in the second quarter, the goals came in spurts, often as fast as two per minute. It got so crazy that standout Eagan defenseman Andrew Marklund, watching all the mayhem, felt like he wanted to get involved. So he ran the length of the field, whipped a shot and scored a clutch fourth-quarter goal.
“We usally don’t have our D-poles carry the ball because we have good middies and good attack,” Felter said. “I wasn’t real happy when I saw him trotting over the midfield line. But once he got close, yeah, because I see him every day in practice.”
The goal was Markland’s fourth of the season.
“I decided that if I got the ball I was going to the net,” Markland said. “And I did get the ball, so I went to the net. I shot, and it went in.”
Rosemount's Carter Yepsen takes the low road as he tries to shovel a shot past Eagan midfielder Nicholas Forsha, left, and goaltender Luke Westrum. Photo by Katherine Matthews
Senior Michael Kukulski scored seven goals, including four in the fourth quarter, to propel Eagan to a 19-15 triumph over Rosemount on Friday, May 31, in wildly entertaining, run-and-gun Section 3 semifinal at Eagan High School.
Rosemount (10-4) got six goals from junior Carter Yepsen and led 12-9 in the third quarter before Eagan responded by scoring 10 of the final 13 goals. The Wildcats outscored the Irish 7-2 in the fourth quarter.
Eagan (13-2) advances to play Eastview in the Section 3 championship. The defending state champion Lightning beat Prior Lake 15-7 in Friday’s other Section 3 semifinal.
Connor Simpson and Cullen Willox each scored three goals for Eagan, and Thomas Powers and Nicholas Forsha added two each. One of Simpson’s goals came as he took a pass just outside the crease and, with his back turned to the goal, swept the ball between his feet and into the goal.
Connor Yepsen, Grant Vanoverbeke, Mason Hille and Trent Woodcock each scored twice for Rosemount.
Eagan outscored Rosemount 17-13 in the teams’ regular season meeting on April 25.
Eagan got a huge goal from standout defenseman Andrew Markland late in the fourth quarter. Markland’s unlikely goal on a wicked shot came at the end of a downfield rush and put the Wildcats ahead 17-15 with 4 minutes, 51 seconds left.
Kukulski and Forsha completed the scoring for Eagan, which benefitted from two of penalties called on Carter Yepsen (one for slashing, one for holding) with 93 seconds remaining.
Rosemount scored four straight goals spanning the second and third quarters and at one point was on a 8-2 run before Eagan made its comeback.
Willox finished with a game-high four assists. Many of the combined 34 goals were the result of precision passes that allowed the shooter to deposit the ball into an open net. There were 21 assists in all, including three each from Rosemount’s Conner Yepsen and Vanoverbeke.
Eagan senior Michael Kukulski scored seven goals in the Wildcats' victory over Rosemount. Photo by Katherine Matthews
1. Michael Kukulski, Eagan
A recent second-team all-state selection, Kukulski was all but unstoppable in the fourth quarter when he scored four of his seven goals to allow the Wildcats to surge past the Irish. The run-and-gun nature of the game suited Kukulski just fine. He’s not known for passing up open shots – or missing them for that matter. Kukulski, who scored seven goals in a section quarterfinal win over Bloomington Kennedy, has a stunning 59 this season.
2. Carter Yepsen, Rosemount
The junior midfielder put on a scoring exhibition through three quarters, when he racked up six goals, all of them highlight-package worthy. He also added two assists while serving as the catalyst of an Irish offense that excelled in transition and was jaw-dropping effective in finishing fast breaks.
3. Cullen Willox, Eagan
Another huge game for “The Ox.” He scored three goals, set up four more and won most of the crucial faceoffs down the stretch. Willox scored two of his goals and added an assist during Eagan’s game-clinching 10-3 run spanning the late stages of the third quarter and all of the fourth.