North kicks it into gear in 3rd period

Panther skaters win the first round against South

Lakeville South's Nick Swaney (left) and Lakeville North's Matt Arnold battle for the puck during Tuesday night's game at Ames Arena. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy
Lakeville South’s Nick Swaney (left) and Lakeville North’s Matt Arnold battle for the puck during Tuesday night’s game at Ames Arena. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

There’s little doubt which team holds the edge right now in the Lakeville high school boys hockey rivalry. The question is, will it be different in February?

That’s what Lakeville South coach Kurt Weber is hoping for after the Cougars’ 6-0 loss to North on Tuesday night at Ames Arena. North led 2-0 after two periods, then appeared to pounce on every mistake the Cougars made in the third period to score four more goals.

North improved to 5-1 in the South Suburban Conference, maintaining a two-point lead over Burnsville, which has played one fewer league game. Another potential threat is Prior Lake, which has played only three SSC games so far but won them all.

“We’re a young team; we’re playing a lot of sophomores and juniors,” Weber said. “We’ve played well at times, and other times we’ve hurt ourselves. (Tuesday) was a good example. It was a 2-0 game going into the third period, then we made some mistakes in our ‘D’ zone that they converted into goals. By the end of the season, we’re hoping we’re not making those kinds of mistakes.”

It’s not too early for the Cougars (2-6 overall) to plan for a playoff rematch with Lakeville North because the teams have met in the Section 1AA tournament the last six years. Five of those games were for the section title.

North, 5-3 overall, had a productive last few days, winning 4-2 at Bloomington Jefferson on Saturday before shutting out its crosstown rival. The Panthers’ top line of brothers Jack, Ryan and Nick Poehling did their damage, combining for three goals and with six points against South. Conner Hyden, Jack McNeely and Henry Enebak also scored, and goalie Will DuPont made 15 saves to earn the shutout.

“We’ve played better recently because we’re getting healthy,” North coach Trent Eigner said. “We’ve had an incredible rash of injuries that prevented us from having the same line combinations two games in a row. Now we’re settled on some lines that seem to be doing well.”

Jack Poehling, a junior, leads North in goals (eight) and points (13). Senior forward Tristen Hazlett has 11 points and a team-high eight assists. Hyden and Ryan Poehling have nine points each.

On Tuesday, North outshot South 36-15, including 15-3 in the first period and 17-3 in the second.

The Panthers also succeeded in keeping South’s prime scoring threats, senior forward Patrick Lauderdale and sophomore forward Nick Swaney. They are the Cougars’ leading scorers with 11 and 10 points. Nick Oelrich (seven points) is the only other South player with more than four.

Eigner, in his third season as the Panthers’ head coach, said the North-South hockey rivalry remains special, but added that both teams appear to be interested in more than just Lakeville bragging rights. Both teams have ambitious non-conference schedules. Lakeville South has already played Hill-Murray and Eden Prairie, while North has faced Minnetonka and St. Thomas Academy.

“We’re trying to get to where teams like Edina and Burnsville are, where we can throw anybody on the schedule and feel like we have a chance to win,” Eigner said. “The rivalry is good for our programs, the fans and the city, but we also have to focus on consistency of effort.”

North plays Rosemount at home in a South Suburban game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday before going to a holiday tournament at St. Louis Park Rec Center beginning at noon Dec. 26. Eden Prairie will be the first-round opponent.

Lakeville South plays host to Eastview at 2:45 p.m. Saturday, the goes to the Schwan Cup tournament in Blaine, where its first-round opponent is Stillwater at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 26.