Wildcats still playing like they have something to prove

Boys hockey playoffs start next week

Cullen Willox of Eagan heads toward the net with Eastview’s Ryan McNamara in pursuit during the Wildcats’ 7-1 victory Tuesday night. Photo by Rick Orndorf

Cullen Willox of Eagan heads toward the net with Eastview’s Ryan McNamara in pursuit during the Wildcats’ 7-1 victory Tuesday night. Photo by Rick Orndorf

Eagan clinched another South Suburban Conference boys hockey championship Saturday. The time for celebrating will come later.

“Well, it was Senior Night, and I think they were in a hurry to get to the taco bar,” coach Mike Taylor said with a chuckle. “It was also Sadie Hawkins at school, and they had a dance to get to. There were a few handshakes, a few hugs, but it wasn’t a big celebration.”

An 8-2 victory over Lakeville North gave Eagan its second consecutive SSC championship. Since the league formed in 2010, the Wildcats are 42-6-3 in conference games.

With the conference title in its pocket and a No. 1 seed in the Section 3AA playoffs all but locked up, Eagan appeared to have little to play for Tuesday night at Eastview. The Wildcats did everything but go through the motions, spanking the Lightning 7-1. Eagan put the game out of reach by scoring four times in the third period, including twice on 5-on-3 advantages.

“They beat us the last time (a 4-2 Eastview victory Jan. 12),” Taylor said. “We didn’t have to say too much. They have a very good goaltender, they hustle and work hard. Our kids know a lot of their kids, and they respect them.”

It’s not out of the question that Eagan and Eastview could play again, this time with playoff survival at stake. While Eagan (20-3-1) is certain to be the top seed in Section 3AA, Eastview (14-9-1) is in contention with Cretin-Derham Hall and East Ridge for the No. 2 seed. Eastview’s regular-season victory over Eagan could work in the Lightning’s favor come section seeding time. The Section 3AA quarterfinal round is scheduled Feb. 21.

When the playoffs start, Eagan will be seeking a third consecutive trip to the state tournament. The Wildcats don’t have a lot of holdovers from last season; only Zach Glienke, Cullen Willox and Will Peterson scored more than eight points in 2011-12.

“I think these kids are on a mission to prove they’re not just leftovers,” Taylor said. “They have very good chemistry and are a lot of fun to coach.”

Glienke, recently named one of 10 finalists for the Mr. Hockey Award, scored a hat trick against Eastview. Josh Loew scored twice, and Jesse Gabrielle and Zach Schultz each had a goal and assist.

Eastview sophomore goalie Zachary Driscoll stopped 64 of 66 shots in the Lightning’s Jan. 12 victory over Eagan. He saw 42 shots on goal in Tuesday’s game, including 17 in the third period.

Kevin Wobschall scored Eastview’s goal in the second period.

The final South Suburban Conference games of the season are Saturday. Eagan (15-1 in league play) goes to Apple Valley at 2 p.m., while Eastview (8-7-1 plays at Prior Lake at 3 p.m.).

Burnsville

The Blaze can clinch second place in the South Suburban with a victory or tie against Lakeville South at 3 p.m. Saturday at Hasse Arena.

Burnsville improved to 12-4 in the conference with a 6-1 victory over Bloomington Kennedy on Tuesday night. Junior forward Tyler Sheehy, who recently committed to Ohio State University, had two goals and an assist for Burnsville. Senior forward Ian Taylor had two goals and junior forward Anthony Rikberg had a goal and two assists.

The team is 0-4 against Eagan and Prior Lake but 12-0 against everybody else in the South Suburban. One of the Blaze’s biggest victories of the season was 3-2 in overtime at Bloomington Jefferson on Saturday night. Jefferson tied the game with 36 seconds remaining in the third period, but Burnsville won it on Sheehy’s goal at 7:02 of overtime.

The Blaze is 14-9-1 overall, with all nine losses coming against teams ranked in the top 11 in Class AA by Let’s Play Hockey. The tie was against Breck, currently ranked No. 2 in Class A.

The killer schedule should get Burnsville ready for the Section 2AA playoffs next week. Section seedings are not scheduled to be done until this weekend, but it appears the Blaze is locked in as the No. 3 seed. Edina (18-5) has the best record in the section and beat Burnsville during the regular season. Prior Lake (16-7) swept two SSC games from the Blaze. Jefferson (14-9) lost to Burnsville twice and seems to be a safe bet for the No. 4 seed.

Section 2AA quarterfinals are Feb. 21 with the higher-seeded teams at home.

Rosemount

The Irish rallied to beat Apple Valley 5-4 on Tuesday night, improving to 10-14 overall and 5-11 in the South Suburban.

Rosemount also seems likely to stay out of the Section 3AA play-in game between the eighth and ninth seeds, scheduled for Feb. 19. The Irish are assured of finishing the regular season with more victories than three of the nine teams in the section.

Avoiding the play-in game also means Rosemount probably would not have to play South Suburban Conference champion Eagan, the section’s likely No. 1 seed, in the quarterfinals Feb. 21.

Five section teams – Eagan, Eastview, Cretin-Derham Hall, East Ridge and Hastings – currently have winning records. Three others – Woodbury, Apple Valley and Park of Cottage Grove – have six victories or fewer.

Tuesday’s victory was Rosemount’s third in its last four games. The Irish, trailing 4-2 after two periods, scored three times in the third. Sophomore forward Lukas Gillett scored twice in the third period, completing a hat trick. He also had a goal in the second period.

Junior defenseman Justin Crowell had two assists for the Irish, who close the regular season at home against Bloomington Jefferson at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Apple Valley

The Eagles were 5-19 after losing to Rosemount and will play Eagan in their regular-season finale at 2 p.m. Saturday. Depending on how the Section 3AA playoffs are seeded, they will be in the Feb. 19 play-in game or will go directly to the quarterfinal round Feb. 21.

Mason Preston had a three-point night for the Eagles on Tuesday with a goal and two assists. Jacob Smith and Christian Smith each had a goal and two assists, and Calvin Leong had two assists.

up arrow