Wildcats boys hockey team sweeps season series from Burnsville
Certain motivational tactics can be used only a few times before players’ eyes glaze and their faces take on a heard-it-all-before kind of look.
Facing a one-goal deficit after two periods Tuesday night, Eagan boys hockey coach Mike Taylor had to reach into his briefcase for this one: challenge the team.
“We challenged them to refuse to be denied these two points,” Taylor said later. “We told them, ‘We’re in a 17-minute hockey game. What are you going to do about it?’ ”
It must have worked because the Wildcats played the third period as if they were shot out of a cannon. They scored five goals in the third period of a 7-3 victory over Burnsville at Eagan Civic Arena. Eagan swept the regular-season series against Burnsville and stretched its lead in the South Suburban Conference to six points over Burnsville and Prior Lake.
Defensemen Nick Wolff and Tommy Muck scored the tying and go-ahead goals in the third period, with goals by Josh Loew, Cullen Willox and Zach Glienke putting the game out of reach. Kyle Stebbing scored in each of the first two periods for the Wildcats (16-3-1 overall, 12-1 conference).
“We tried to play pretty physical,” Glienke said. “I think maybe we wore them down in the first two periods and that helped us in the third.”
As for what was said between the second and third periods, “that’s happened a few times this year,” Glienke said, “but usually we do a good job of motivating ourselves.”
Eagan, ranked seventh in Class AA, won at Burnsville 4-2 on Dec. 18 in what Glienke said probably still is the Wildcats’ best overall effort. In the rematch, Taylor said Eagan had to throw several forechecking systems at the Blaze before finding one that worked.
“We sent our wings in wide, but Janne (Kivihalme, Burnsville’s coach) saw that right away and had his kids start to cycle,” Taylor said.
In the third period, Eagan kept Burnsville trapped in its own zone for long stretches and outshot the Blaze 18-6.
“We just had a lot of time in their zone in the third period,” Taylor said. “I didn’t like the way we played in the first, and in the second Burnsville had a lot of time on the power play. But when we were down only 3-2 at the end of the second, I thought, ‘We’re OK now.’ ”
Burnsville scored all three of its goals on power plays. Tyler Sheehy put the Blaze in front 2:51 into the game. In the second, with the Blaze trailing by a goal, Nick DiGregorio and Teemu Kivihalme scored 3:25 apart to put their team back in front.
Tenth-ranked Burnsville is 11-8-1 overall and 9-3 in the South Suburban. All of the Blaze’s losses are to teams in the top 12 of the Let’s Play Hockey state Class AA rankings.
Burnsville returns to action Saturday at 3 p.m. at home against Apple Valley. Eagan plays at Prior Lake on Saturday, also at 3 p.m.