March 07, 2019 09:31 PM
It's fitting it was Jack Jensen who spared himself and his Eden Prairie teammates an early wake-up call Friday morning.
Because if anyone earned a few extra zzz's Thursday, it was the Eagles' senior co-captain.
Jensen, who has committed to play at the University of Minnesota, notched the game-winning goal with under a minute left to play in the third overtime as third-seeded Eden Prairie outlasted unseeded Lakeville South 3-2 in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A boys' state hockey tournament Thursday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.
Had the game gone just 56 seconds longer, both teams would have had to come back at 8 a.m. Friday to pick up where they left off. Play would have been suspended so the second quarterfinal session Thursday night started on time.
Not that Jensen was aware of that at the time.
"I truly had no idea," he said with a smile. "The first time I heard that was when my coach [Lee Smith] told me afterward. That's unbelievable."
"It makes it feel even better that we scored so we didn't have to go through that."
"He was almost Leddy-like in his performance tonight," added Smith, referring to former Eden Prairie star Nick Leddy now with the NHL's New York Islanders.
"In 2009 [when the Eagles captured a state title], Nick was out there practically the whole game. And Jack was out there almost the whole game today."
Smith and Lakeville South head coach Janne Kivihalme were informed of the plan to suspend play after a third overtime during the intermission that followed the first.
But the players were focused only on a game that swung back-and-forth.
The Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by senior Clayton Shultz (his first goal of the season) and sophomore Drew Holt in the first period. But the Cougars battled back with a goal by sophomore Griffin Ludtke in the second and one by classmate Jack Novak early in the third.
The real hero for Lakeville South, though, was senior goaltender Henry Welsch, who recorded 63 saves to help his team remain deadlocked despite a 66-29 Eagles' advantage when it came to shots.
"At a certain point, you're not really thinking," said Welsch, whose team advanced to state despite being the No. 4 seed in Section 1-2A. "You're just playing."
"All your adrenaline is going and everybody is doing their job. All your focus is on the game."
It marked the first three-overtime game at the state tournament since Eden Prairie defeated Duluth East 3-2 in the Class 2A championship game in 2011.
Jensen was playing hockey in Edina back then. But he remembers watching.
"That was an unbelievable game," he said. "And now to be here at the tournament ourselves, on the same rink, and do the same thing, is amazing."
"It starts to hit you how unbelievable this is. It's going to stick with me the rest of my life."
It certainly beats having to come back in the morning and play in an empty arena.
Instead, Jensen and company could get some rest and focus on a semifinal matchup against Blaine at 6 p.m. Friday.
"I'm just speechless right now," Jensen said. "I'm sure I'm going to sleep pretty well. There may be some cramping I have to deal with. But I'll grab an ice pack and be OK."
"Nothing can wipe away this feeling right now."
* After a 4-2 loss to Blaine in the first Class 2A matchup Thursday, White Bear Lake fell to 0-19 in state quarterfinal games.
It's a streak that dates back to the first state tournament in 1945. But Bears coach Tim Sager and his team hoped this might be the season it came to an end.
The Bengals dashed those hopes early, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the second period. White Bear Lake rallied with a pair of goals by juniors Grant Hofeld and Samuel Newpower later in the period, but that was as close as the Bears would get.
"At some point, we're going to break through and win in the quarterfinals," Sager said. "We thought it might be this year. But, Blaine is a good team."
Blaine senior standout Bryce Brodzinski got his team off on the right foot with a goal at the 11:08 mark of the first period. Then junior Cole Hansen scored the next two.
"Maple Grove scored on us right away in the section final and that made us tense up a little bit," Brodzinski said. "So getting that first goal today helped a lot."
Newpower said his team came out a bit too nervous early on.
"Nobody on this team has been here before," said Newpower, whose team's last appearance at state came in 2011. "I think we got a little scared of the bright lights and all the people. We got tight and we couldn't make plays."
"But we've never been a team to quit. We always come back every time."
Updated: March 07, 2019 09:31 PM
Created: March 07, 2019 06:52 PM
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