State Hockey: Minnetonka tops neighboring rival Edina 2-1 for AA crown

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Minnetonka made it a season sweep over Edina in boys hockey on Saturday, March 11, and the Skippers’ reward for the feat is something that will be cherished forever.

In the third meeting of the season between the longtime Lake Conference rivals, the top-seeded Skippers again turned away the No. 3 Hornets, this time in a 2-1 victory in the Class AA championship game of the Minnesota State High School League’s Boys Hockey State Tournament at the Xcel Energy Center. Sophomore forward Ashton Schultz scored what proved to be the winner midway through the third period to send the top-seeded Skippers (29-2-0) to their second Class AA crown since 2018.

Minnetonka ended the season on a 20-game winning streak.

Click the video box on this page to watch extended highlights of the 2023 Class AA State Boys Hockey Championship game between Minnetonka and Edina, including postgame interviews and celebration

In the three-game series during the 2022-23 season, Minnetonka surrendered just one goal. Minnetonka defeated Edina 4-0 on Jan. 19 and then had a 1-0 win on Feb. 11 en route to winning the Lake Conference crown. Edina was attempting to capture the 11th boys hockey championship in team history. Four of the past six Class AA state champions in Boys Hockey began the tournament as the top seed. All represented the Lake Conference. In addition to Minnetonka this season and in 2018, Eden Prairie won in 2021 and Edina in 2019.

Minnetonka was runner-up to Edina in the Class AA championship game in 2010 in the only other title-game matchup between the two powers.

But before Minnetonka could celebrate, the Skippers had to survive won last surge from Edina, including a heart-stopping moment in the final minute of play. With the Hornets pushing forward into Minnetonka’s zone, Edina senior forward Matt Vander Vort nearly found the goal that may have forced overtime when his shot over sprawled Minnetonka goalie Kaizer Nelson, a senior, hit the near pipe and bounced to the opposite of the crease.

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Minnetonka snapped a 1-all tie with 8:35 remaining in regulation time when Schultz danced and weaved his way down the left side with some sly moves as he converged on the Edina goal. Just as he was about to exit the circle, he fired a wrist shot to the near side. It was just Minnetonka’s 12th shot of the game through two-plus periods. It was his 14th goal of the season.

Edina finally broke through and snapped a scoreless streak against the Skippers when junior forward Bobby Cowan scored 27 seconds into the third period. He stole the puck when he was just above the blue crease paint. He wheeled and then flipped it past Nelson.

Edina stepped its urgency to find an equalizing goal in the second period. While outshooting Minnetonka 7-3 in the second period, the Hornets remained stonewalled on the scoreboard. Through two periods, Edina was outshooting Minnetonka by a 14-10 margin. Senior Matt Vander Vort had had a team-best three shots through two periods.

Minnetonka opened the scoring on a power-play goal with 5:59 remaining in the first period. Junior forward Hagen Burrows put an end to a fast-paced sequence when he fired a shot while on the endline. His shot hit the right arm of Edina senior goalie Robbie Clarkowski and bounced into the goal. Just seconds prior, the Skippers fanned on two close-range attempts.

Third place: Andover, the Class AA champion in 2022, used every bit of time to end the current season, scoring three goals in the final 49 seconds of play to post a 5-3 victory over Cretin-Derham Hall for the third-place trophy. Junior forward Brooks Cogswell scored with 1 minute 2 seconds remaining in regulation to create visions that overtime was ahead. But 25 seconds later, senior forward Gavyn Thoreson scored what proved to be the winner. And then 24 seconds later, junior defenseman Landon Stringfellow capped the season with an empty-net goal. The Huskies finished the season 23-7-1 while Cretin-Derham Hall was 19-11-1.

Consolation: Hill-Murray ended its season on a winning note with a 5-3 victory over Maple Grove in the consolation final at 3M Arena at Mariucci on the University of Minnesota campus. Junior forward Simon Seidl scored two goals and assisted on another to send the Pioneers (16-14-1) past the Crimson (23-7-1). Senior goalie Jack Erickson made 41 saves to preserve the victory.

Courtesy: Minnesota State High School League