It was a defensive struggle between No. 2-seed Eden Prairie and No. 3-seed Hill-Murray in the state AA girls hockey semifinals Feb. 22 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Eden Prairie’s quest for a third state girls hockey championship will have to wait for another year as the Eagles lost a hard-fought 2-1 decision to the Pioneers. The Eagles had a 21-5-4 record after that defeat while Hill-Murray advanced to Saturday night’s finals against two-time defending state champion Minnetonka.
Eden Praire met Lakeville North in the third-place game Feb. 23. The Panthers lost 4-3 in six overtimes to Minnetonka Friday night.
Charly Dahlquist gave Eden Prairie a 1-0 lead at 6 minutes, 27 seconds of the first period with assistance from Lauren Boyle and Angie Heppelmann.
Hill-Murray tied the game at 1-1 midway in the second period on a goal from Kenzie Prater. The Pioneers went ahead 2-1 at 2:37 of the third period on a goal by Sarah Brobowski.
Eden Prairie was unable to capitalize on a pair of power-play situations later in that final period. The Eagles pulled senior goalie McKenzie Johnson with 1:12 left in regulation but couldn’t net the tying goal. Johnson, a Ms. Goalie finalist, finished with 15 saves.
Eden Prairie’s Johnson was one of the loneliest people in the Xcel Energy Center during the Eagles’ 6-0 quarterfinal win over Forest Lake Feb. 21.
Johnson watched from Eden Prairie’s defensive zone as the Eagles’ offense applied pressure on the Forest Lake defense throughout the contest. Johnson had to make only eight saves as Eden Prairie recorded the shutout.
Eden Prairie had 35 shots on goal and scored twice in each period against Forest Lake (15-11-2). Heppelmann and Josie Olson scored two goals each for an Eagle team that was making its fifth state tourney appearance. Dahlquist and Anna Johnson also scored for the winners.
Dahlquist and Heppelmann added two assists each. Isabelle Brosseau and Kate Rydland chipped in with one assist apiece.
“This was one of the toughest games for me as a goaltender because I didn’t see a lot of shots,” said Eden Prairie’s McKenna Johnson after the triumph. “You stay focused and be ready for shots that might come your way.
“We got a lot of help from the forwards and I didn’t see a lot of action. This was one of our team’s best defensive efforts of the season.”
Eden Prairie coach Jamie Grossman liked the way his Eagle skaters came together defensively in the win over Forest Lake.
“We did a great job getting back on defense and helping each other out,” said the Eagle coach. “It was the first state tournament appearance for all our players and they might have been a little nervous early in the game.
“We had a lot of scoring opportunities in the first period but got only two goals. Forest Lake came out and put offensive pressure on for about five to seven minutes of the second period. But we were able to withstand that challenge and ended up scoring twice in that period.”
Dahlquist is Eden Prairie’s leading scorer with 55 points on 30 goals and 25 assists. But she is not worried about individual accomplishments.
“I would rather have team victories than individual assists or goals.” said Dahlquist. “I just try to help the team win any way I can.”
Eden Prairie was hoping to bring home a third state championship trophy besides the ones the Eagles attained in 2006 and 2008.
Contact Greg Kleven at [email protected]