Limited-attendance state hockey tournament comes to a bittersweet close
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Ecstatic Edina High School hockey fans enjoyed a championship moment on Saturday.
The Hornets girls team beat the Andover Huskies 2-1 in a well-matched game between two undefeated teams.
“Oh yeah, a hard-fought game right ‘til the end, but we came out on top, so let’s go,” exclaimed Adam Berghult.
Berghult and his buddies cheered and celebrated the victory outside Xcel Energy Center while carrying a giant cutout of his girlfriend, Edina forward Jane Kuehl.
"We lost last year,” he explained. “So we had a little bit of a redemption, we bounced back a little, a rematch."
Andover won the championship last year over Edina. This time, it was not the outcome Huskies fans were hoping for, but there was still support in the stands.
"We had fun just getting to go,” says Sharmayne Green, of Andover. “There was definitely a lot of cheering. It was not too many people, but it was fun to get out."
The tournament itself underwent some major pandemic changes. On Thursday, the capacity limit inside the Xcel Energy Center, as mandated by the Minnesota Department of Health, expanded from 250 to 3,000 people.
Edina’s Tom Chorske says he’s glad his daughter Hannah got a chance to play in front of her hockey family.
"Our daughter’s a senior and a captain, so it was really important and meaningful for her, just being able to have a tournament, you know,” said Chorske, who grew up in Minnesota and played briefly in the NHL. “Now that they’ve opened up and there’s a few thousand people allowed, it was good enough, I think. It wasn’t perfect, but to be able to get a state tournament in was meaningful and important for the families and the players.”
Along the way, both teams took on pandemic challenges, like safety protocols and smaller fan crowds.
Sarah Sauer spoke last Saturday with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS about her daughter Nora, a freshman with the Huskies.
“Just lots of emotion and lots of excitement, and yeah, for her to get the opportunity to be a part of this team,” she said. “You know they’re not going to have the crowds there that are cheering them on, but they’ve got a lot of support from us parents who’ve been there all year."
Fans on both sides say it was a strong, competitive game, despite the restrictions. They hope next year’s hockey tournament — like so many other things — will be back to normal.
"It’s sad not to see all the fans there obviously,” said Sue Zachman, of Edina. "All the students and, you know, all the fans. It’s got to be tough to play like that, but it’s not the same. Hopefully it will come back soon."