Eagan girls hockey falls to defending state champ at state

Minnetonka’s three-goal third period puts sends Wildcats to consolation bracket

by Andy Rogers
Thisweek Newspapers

A few years ago, the Minnesota State High School league began seeding the top four teams at the Class AA state girls state hockey tournament.

The remaining four are placed at random.

It’s the luck of the draw, or bad luck if you’re the Eagan girls hockey team who were graced with Minnetonka in the Class AA state quarterfinals Thursday evening at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

No. 1 seed Minnetonka is the defending state champion and favored to win it again.

Most of Minnetonka players had skated under the bright lights of the Xcel Energy Center, while Eagan’s last appearance was in 2009. The only members left who played in the state tournament three years ago were Megan Wolfe, Alanna Stangl and Megan Juricko.

“We had a tough draw, but we weren’t worried about it,” Eagan co-head coach Scott Darwitz said. “We told the kids, ‘hey, you’re playing the state champs. There’s your motivation right there.’ We’re happy with the way we’re played. We got a few bad bounces and a few questionable penalties. We’ll be back tomorrow. It’s OK.”

Eagan lost 4-1 sending the team to the consolation bracket at noon on Friday at Ridder Arena at the University of Minnesota against the loser of the late game between Lakeville North and Roseau.

It took a power play to give Minnetonka a 1-0 lead in the first period after outplaying and outshooting Eagan for nearly 10 minutes. Three shots rang off the Eagan goalpost in the first five minutes.

While nerves played a factor in the quarterfinals for Eagan, they calmed down after the first intermission.

Eagan evened the score quickly in the second period. Alexia Wilson stole the puck right out from under Minnetonka goalie Sydney’s Rossman’s glove on a rebound to punch it through. Emily Johannes and Megan Juricko were credited with the assists. The Wildcats rode the surge outshooting Minnetonka by seven shots in the second period, but only one mattered to the scoreboard.

“We were really impressed with Eagan’s effort especially the way they played in the second period,” Minnetonka head coach Eric Johnson said. “They were very tenacious.”

Minnetonka regained the lead less than three minutes into the third period with a shot by Kelsey Crow. Less than two minutes later immediately following face-off after an Eagan penalty, Minnetonka added to its lead. The power play lasted eight seconds.

Eagan wasn’t about to give up peppering Rossman with the puck for the next three minutes, but nothing found the back of the net.

“We didn’t get some good bounces,” Darwitz said. “We still battled and we had some opportunities. We just didn’t have the good numbers coming down the ice. It was always a two-on-two or one-on-two. We never had a three-on-two. Once we got in the zone they had everybody in front of the net and we couldn’t get the rebound. That’s the game sometimes.”

Minnetonka’s Kira Von Steinbergs put her team up by three goals with five minutes remaining. She stole the puck and fired over Eagan goalie Emma May’s glove. May had 17 saves in the loss.

Minnetonka held Eagan’s leading scorer Wolfe, who had 69 points including 44 goals in 28 games this season, scoreless despite seven shots.

“It was a focus of ours to not allow Wolfe to get a shot in the house and contain her,” Johnson said. “If that took double teaming, than we were going to do that.”

Andy Rogers is at andy.rogers@ecm-inc.com.

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