Freshman J.D. Spielman scored the winning goal as he fired this shot past Eastview goalie Jeremy LeClaire with 13 seconds left as Eden Prairie beat Eastview 9-8 in the state championship game. Photo by Brian Nelson
The play wasn’t drawn up this way, but what the heck.
Time for Eden Prairie’s Nick Bentz to improvise.
“The kid is just so confident,” Eagles senior and Mr. Lacrosse Award winner Jake Woodring said about his fellow senior midfielder. “In tight situations, he’s the guy you want with the ball.”
With the ball, and a state championship game, hanging in the pocket of his stick, Bentz spotted teammate J.D. Spielman cutting into the open to the right of the net. Bentz might as well have been staring at a rainbow, complete with an honest-to-goodness pot of gold.
“Nick just saw J.D.,” Eden Prairie coach Ryan Ward said, “and anytime you see J.D. wide open, you want to get him the ball. He did the rest.”
Or, as Woodring says, Spielman did what Spielman does. What Spielman, a freshman, does is score goals. What he did on Saturday, June 15 at Chanhassen High School was secure an elusive state title for the top-seeded and top-ranked Eagles in the form of a 9-8 victory over Eastview.
The Bentz-to-Spielman dream combination provided the winning goal with 12 seconds left. It also ended years of nightmare finishes for Eden Prairie, which has been the state runner-up four times but never had won a championship. Two of those second-place finishes came in the previous two years, including last season’s 10-4 loss to Eastview in the title game.
“We call it ‘The Curse,' ” said junior midfielder Ronnie Spielman, J.D.’s older brother. “We were tired of going home with silver for two years in a row.”
Woodring confirmed the Eagles’ moto this season was to, “Break the Curse.”
“It’s been elusive, I’ll tell you that,” Woodring said about the state championship to cap an 18-0 season. “It is good to be on this side of it.”
“The Curse” seemingly hit high scoring Eden Prairie junior attackman Charlie Venable during Tuesday’s quarterfinals when Venable suffered a fractured foot in a victory over Rochester Mayo. Nope. Venable played the next two games and scored two goals in Saturday’s championship despite being slowed by the painful injury.
Two Eastview goals in 38 seconds midway through the final quarter that tied the score at 8 also could have been considered bad mojo for the Eagles, but Eden Prairie simply needed to get the ball to its lucky charm.
“I just happened to find space, and I was there,” Spielman said. “I just started screaming for the ball, and I got it. I was like. ‘Oh, I have it.’ And I just shot it. I didn’t even know if I was going to catch it or not.”
Spielman scored two goals in each of Eden Prairie’s three state tournament games, had three goals against Minnetonka and two against Bloomington Jefferson in the section playoffs and finished the season with 30 goals in 18 games.
The sons of Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, J.D. and Ronnie have two nets in their yard and a built-in practice partner.
“We do wall ball every day, shoot every day, pass with each other,” Ronnie said. “It’s fun. It’s good to have him. It’s lot easier having a teammate or sibling than doing it yourself. And it’s a lot more fun as we get to show each other our tricks and stuff.”
The Spielman’s have tried playing one-on-one against each other, with disastrous results.
“It just doesn’t work out real well,” Ronnie said. “We just start arguing with each other, but then we get over it because we know we’re brothers and we have to live with each other.”
Despite the occasional spat, the Spielman’s are more than workout buddies. They are best friends.
“I’m really proud of him,” Ronnie said. “We’ve both worked really hard for this, to have an opportunity to come out here and play for a championship. I’m really glad that I could share it with him.”
-- Loren Nelson
Ryan McNamara celebrates a late game score that brought the Lightning within one goal. Photo by Brian Nelson
Eden Prairie's Brooks Armitage scored two goals and an assist. Photo by Brian Nelson
Freshman midfielder J.D. Spielman scored the winning goal with 13 seconds remaining to lift Eden Prairie to heart-stopping 9-8 triumph over Eastview in the state championship game on Saturday, June 15, at Chanhassen High School.
The state championship was the first for the Eagles, who had appeared in four previous state championship games, including last year’s when they lost 10-4 to Eastview.
The victory capped a 18-0 season for top-seeded and top-ranked Eden Prairie.
Spielman, who was named to the all-tournament team, was stationed to the right of the Eastview goal when he took a pass from Nic Bentz and managed to find an opening over Eastview goaltender Jeremy LeClaire.
Eastview, which trailed 4-1 early in the second quarter, set up for a final shot with 4 seconds left but couldn’t muster a quality scoring chance.
Spielman scored two goals, as did attackmen Sean Patterson, Charlie Venable and Brooks Armitage. Venable was playing despite a stress fracture in his foot, suffered Tuesday in the Eagles’ state quarterfinal victory over Rochester Mayo. Senior midfielder and Mr. Lacrosse winner Jake Woodring was limited to two assists.
Mr. Lacrosse finalist Ryan McNamara scored three goals, all in the second half, to lead Eastview.
The Lightning (14-4) trailed 8-6 in the early stages of the final quarter after a goal by Patterson, a sophomore. Eastview responded with goals 33 seconds apart by Michael Stillings and McNamara.
Eden Prairie goaltender Max Fahey was credited with nine saves while Eastview's Jeremy LeClaire had two.
-- Loren Nelson
1. J.D. Spielman, Eden Prairie
Spielman ended the Eagles’ title drought with a stunning last-second goal that clinched the victory with just 12 seconds to play. Just a freshman, Spielman topped a fantastic campaign with two goals in the title game and 10 points in the state tournament (six goals, four assists).
2. Brooks Armitage, Eden Prairie
Armitage was the best player on the field, answering every run by the Lightning with a clutch play of his own. Both of his goals came after Eastview came from behind and tied the game, and he also tallied an assist. Armitage ends a great career with a 70 point season (42 goals, 28 assists) and a championship for a cherry on top.
3. Ryan McNamara, Eastview
McNamara led the Lightning with four points including three goals and one assist in a wonderful performance. He showed off his flash and dazzling abilities with a nice turnaround goal and carried Eastview offensively. The senior had eight points (seven goals, one assist) in the state tournament, and finished with 73 points on the season (52 goals, 21 assists).
-- Walker Orenstein
|Evan Shraut||Defense||Champlin Park|
|Ryan McNeil||Attack||Champlin Park|
|Trenton Gahm||Midfield||White Bear Lake|
|Brooks Armitage||Attack||Eden Prairie|
|Kyle Thielmann||Defense||Eden Prairie|
|Charlie Venable||Attack||Eden Prairie|
|Jake Woodring||Midfield||Eden Prairie|
|J.D. Spielman||Midfield||Eden Prairie|