Eden Prairie in AA State Championship once again

by Matt Harrington

St. Paul, MN-- Lee Smith and his Eden Prairie Eagles will play for their third state championship tomorrow. 

The Eagles took down the Blake Bears in a defensive battle, 4-1, at the Xcel Energy Center Friday night. 

The first period brought an abundance of chances, particularly for the Eagles-- but nothing could get past Blake goaltender Axsel Reid, who stood on his head to keep the game scoreless. 

The 2nd period had much of the same, as both Blake and Eden Prairie exchanged chances in the early part of the period. However, the ice was finally broken with under a minute to play. Mr. Hockey finalist Ben Steeves buried a beautiful shot past Axel Reid to give his Eagles a 1-0 lead. 

“I just broke loose. It gave us confidence and we only went up from there,” Steeves said.

In the third, Blake produced several offensive chances, but Eagles goaltender Axel Roselund stayed locked in, making several big saves. It was Jackson Blake who added some insurance with under seven minutes to play, after a beautiful, weaving goal in the slot.

“I didn’t even know (the puck) went in until five seconds later,” Blake said. I saw the boys chasing after me and it went in somehow.”  

The Bears wouldn’t go down without a fight. Getting a critical power play late in the game, Thomas Nelson used his big frame to his advantage and tipped a puck into the back of the net, cutting the deficit to 2-1. 

John Mittelstadt answered the call for the Eagles, responding just minutes later. An empty netter by Drew Holt sealed the deal, and Eden Prairie advanced to the Class AA Championship for the second consecutive season. 

Despite the loss, Blake head coach Rob McClanahan was pleased with how his team performed. 

“I’m not at all disappointed with how we played,” McClanahan said. “It was a spectacular game. In a game like that, someone has to come out on the short end.”

Axel Rosenlund was one of the game’s biggest contributors, as he made 32 saves in the victory and improved his tournament save total to 61 in two games played. 

“I’m just playing my game,” Rosenlund said. I’m not overthinking things and keeping myself level headed.”

Eden Prairie head coach Lee Smith noted how the rest of his team, not just Rosenlund, was on point tonight.

“I thought our kids executed our game plan perfectly. Most of their shots were on the powerplay, and we were great on the five on five,” Smith said.

The Eagles will face either the Hill-Murray Pioneers or St. Thomas Academy Cadets in the Class AA Championship tomorrow night at 7pm inside the Xcel Energy Center.