Thunderhawks upset No. 1 Eden Prairie in state hockey semis

Jason Olson
Sports Editor

Eagles put 49 shots on goal in 3-1 loss 

Eden Prairie (22-5-2) will play for the third place trophy Saturday after fifth-seed Grand Rapids (22-7-1) upset the No. 1 Eagles 3-2 in a very entertaining Class AA state semifinal Friday.

Sophomore Jack Jensen drew a penalty with 1:40 left and the Eagles pulled the goalie for a 6-on-4 edge for one more chance to score a third goal.

Eden Prairie had a number of chances but couldn’t convert as the Thunderhawks denied the shots and rebounds, highlighted by Zach Stejskal saving 47-of-49 shots.

Eagles senior Nicky Leivermann (4) lead his line after scoring the go-ahead goal against Wayzata in state quarterfinal action Thursday, March 9, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Photo by Mark Trockman-trockstock.com)
Eagles senior Nicky Leivermann (4) lead his line after scoring the go-ahead goal against Wayzata in state quarterfinal action Thursday, March 9, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Photo by Mark Trockman-trockstock.com)

The Eagles outshot Grand Rapids 49-28 in the game and won the face-offs by a 55-28 edge in front of an announced crowd of 21,485.

Ryan Lesko gave the red-clad Eden Prairie student section a reason to cheer, 5:15 into the contest at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Lesko tracked his shot looking for a rebound off the save. The puck dropped to him between the hash marks where he slotted the puck home. Jake Olson picked up the assist.

Three minutes later Jack Blacowiak had a prime chance to make it 2-0 as he split between two Grand Rapids defensemen before releasing a low shot between the legs of Stejskal only to have the puck ricochet off the far post and out.

All game senior captain Casey Mittelstadt showcased that extra boost of speed combined with quick hands to weave through traffic. He circled around the Thunderhawks goal before Stejskal made the save.

Just before the first intermission sophomore Spencer Rudrud was joined by senior Nicky Leivermann in the penalty box. With three seconds left on the two-man advantage, Grand Rapids tied the game with a goal from John Stampohar coming at 15:51. Stampohar’s crossing pass was inadvertently deflected into the goal off Mittelstadt’s stick to make it 1-1.

Grand Rapids took a 2-1 lead as Keeghan Graeber scored on a rush 6:29 into the second period after the bouncing puck skipped past Leivermann’s stick at the Eagles blue line.

With 2:27 left in the period, Eden Prairie sophomore Jack Jensen tied the game by redirecting a rebound off a shot by Mittelstadt who collected the puck after sophomore Spencer Rudrud’s shot wrapped around the boards.

Graeber set up the game-winning goal scored by Connor Stefan at the 7:56 mark of the third period for the team affectionately known as the “Halloween Machine” for its orange and black uniforms. Graeber lost an edge, sliding into the corner as he swept the puck on a centering pass to Stefan who scored on a one-timer.

Contact Jason Olson at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @SunSportsJason