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'Dark Army' captures gold

By MN Lax Hub staff, 06/07/12, 1:49AM CDT


Black-and-blue goalie Andrew Koenen lifts Eastview to title game win over Eden Prairie

Eastview goaltender Andrew Koenen, right, celebrates the Lightning's state championship with teammate Bradley Hogan. Photo by Helen Nelson

Eastview goaltender Andrew Koenen celebrates the Lightning's state championship with teammate Bradley Hogan. Photo by Helen Nelson

The best way to break a curse?
Embrace it.
Worked for Andrew Koenen. 
Not interested in reliving a bleak history, Koenen instead focused on a glorious future.
Now he’s part of an exclusive club -- one of just five goaltenders who have won Minnesota State High School League boys state lacrosse championships.
Koenen made 16 saves as Eastview broke all sorts of unflattering streaks in its 10-4 triumph over Eden Prairie in the state title game on Thursday, June 5, in front of 2,113 fans at Chanhassen High School. 
Koenen had watched Eastview lose a boys’ soccer state championship to Eden Prairie, and he knew all about the other big games the Lightning had lost to the Eagles in other sports over the years. 
He knew the Lightning’s three previous trips to the state boys lacrosse tournament had ended without a title, and he was well aware the school, which opened in 1997, had never won a boys championship of any kind.

Eden Prairie's Nic Bentz (22) fires a shot at Eastview goaltender Andrew Koenen. Photo by Helen Nelson

That’s a lot of baggage, and the outlook didn’t improve during warmups when teammate Ryan McNamara drilled a shot off Koenen’s thumb.
“Mac kind of messed up my thumb a little bit, made it a little black and blue,” said Koenen, taking off his glove to reveal the swollen digit complete with discolored nail. 
Cursed? Nah. Koenen used the injury to his advantage.
“Any time I would get a little less angry, I would squeeze it a little bit and get more and more angry,” he said about his battered thumb. “And I would just take it out on the other team, and I would get more and more focused as the game went on.”
Cursed? Eastview lost standout midfielder and vocal leader Alex Wohl to a torn ACL in the sixth game of the regular season. Starting defenseman Luke Fredrickson missed both state tournament games because of an athletic code violation.
"If you would have told me were going to be missing two of our best four players in the state championship game, I would have been really concerned," Eastview coach Tim Roche said.  
As for all those losses to Eden Prairie over the years, they served as a tanker truckload of motivation. Fuel for a night of curse-busting.
“I came out here, and I just go so into it,” Koenen said. “I just wanted really wanted to beat them.”                
Koenen was good in the first half, when he made six saves. He was great in the third quarter when Eden Prairie possessed the ball for long stretches and fired four shots on goal. He was better than great in the fourth quarter, when he made six saves as the desperate Eagles unloaded their remaining arsenal.
An early save on Eden Prairie All-State midfielder Jake Woodring served as an initial confidence boost.
“After that first shot, when he just ripped it and I saved it, I thought ‘He’s no faster than those other guys. I got this,’ ” Koenen said, comparing Woodring to some of the South Suburban Conference stars he faced during the season.
Koenen’s performance was eerily similar to that of Thomas Gilligan of Bendile-St. Margaret’s a year ago in the state title game. Gilligan was brilliant in making 16 saves (the same total as Koenen’s) in a 9-3 victory over Eden Prairie.
“It’s like a bad dream from this year to last year,” Eden Prairie coach Ryan Ward said. “We had a lot of looks but our shooting, it just. … (Koenen) was a little hot, and I think there was a little bit of us making him look hot. 
“It’s a six-by-six net, you’ve got to hit it.”
Not the most feared player on a team that acquired the nickname “Dark Army” in the offseason, Koenen didn’t have much of a reputation – good or bad – before the championship game. He didn’t receive any kind of all-star recognition, not even an all-section nod.
“We always knew we had a great goalie,” said Jake Heppner, Eastview’s Mr. Lacrose award winner who scored two goals and added two assists. “Nobody else gave him respect, but we always believed in him.
“He played unreal.”

Eastview fans show their support for the "Dark Army." Photo by Helen Nelson

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Game Recap

Jake Heppner

Mr. Lacrosse winner Jake Heppner scored twice and added an assist -- all in the first quarter -- as Eastview took a lead it would never relinquish as the Lightning knocked off Eden Prairie 10-4 to win their first state championship in the program’s history and the first boys championship in any sport in the school's 16-year existence.

The Lightning struck early and with a vengeance, jumping out to a four-goal advantage and leading 7-2 at the half on Thursday, June 7, at Chanhassen High School in Chanhassen. 

Eden Prairie was much more competitive in the second half, but the Eagles didn’t play well enough to muster a comeback.

The Eagles attacked the net and displayed great passing but Eastview goaltender Andrew Koenen stuffed them time and time again, stifling the high-powered offense and allowing four goals.

Koenen who made 16 saves, stopping a sterling 80 percent of shots faced.

Star attackman Ryan McNamara had a goal and an assist and had two shots while senior Erik Gage had a goal and three assists. 

Junior Jake Woodring led Eden Prairie with three points (two goals, one assist) while midfielder Nic Bentz scored once and dished an assist. 

Eagles’ goaltender Anthony Perkins only mustered three saves while allowing ten goals.

-- Walker Orenstein, MN Lax Hub staff

1. Jake Heppner, Eastview
What a finish for the Mr. Lacrosse winner. Last game, senior year, state championship game, and he comes up with a game-high four points on two goals and two assists. He was dominant early, and that was all the Lightning needed to capture the title.

2. Andrew Koenen, Eastview
Koenen was nothing short of fantastic, making 16 saves on 20 shots. Every time Eden Prairie would get rolling with long possessions and momentum, the senior goalie would come up with a save to bail Eastview out. Allowing one goal per quarter to the Eden Prairie's typically dynamic offense is quite the accomplishment.

3. Jake Woodring, Eden Prairie
The junior had a nice game for the Eagles and was the only one who found any success against Eastview’s defense and Koenen’s goaltending. He finished the night with two goals and an assist while firing 14 shots, two of which slammed into goalposts.

-- Walker Orenstein, MN Lax Hub staff

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