ST. PAUL – The goalies were the stars of the show early Friday night, March 6, at the Xcel Energy Center, proving that goals aren’t the only requirement for intensity and excitement.
Eden Prairie’s Axel Rosenlund and Aksel Reid of Blake each stood on their heads in every sense of the cliché, but Rosenlund was just a little better in the end, leading the Eagles to a 4-1 Class 2A semifinal win at the Minnesota State Hockey Tournament.
“I think I’ve just been playing my game, keeping myself in the net, not overplaying things and keeping a mellow head,” said Rosenlund, who finished with 32 saves and has a .984 saves percentage in two tournament games.
Eden Prairie (24-5-1) will face the St. Thomas Academy/Hill-Murray winner in the championship at 7 p.m. Reid finished with 30 saves for Blake (23-7-0), which falls to the third-place game at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Eden Prairie came within inches of breaking the scoreless tie 8:29 into the game when Ben forward Ben Steeves tapped the puck out of midair and it landed in the crease, but Reid reached back and covered it with his glove.
The Eagles continued to pour it on in the second period, causing Reid to scramble, swat and even jump to keep the puck out of the net.
“The puck was just sitting in the crease and we were whacking at it,” Steeves said. “[Reid] was jumping across the crease, back-and-forth.”
But the Bears managed to turn the tide toward the Eden Prairie end of the rink, keeping Rosenlund busy amid a few scrambles during a Blake power play.
“They got that power play and that really changed the way the game was going,” Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said. “We were in control, but they got some momentum and got us back on our heels a little bit.”
The Eagles finally rewarded Rosenlund with a lead to work with going into the third period when Steeves scored with 40.9 seconds left in the second. Drew Holt skated the puck to the right circle, turned and dropped it for Steeves in the slot and he fired the puck past Reid.
Eden Prairie went up 2-0 when sophomore Jackson Blake danced around three Bears in the slot and released a point-blank shot past Reid at the 10:13 mark of the third.
The Bears’ lone goal – a Thomas Nelson redirection of a point shot by Will Svenddal with 3:12 left in the game – gave Blake life but John Mittlestadt’s slapshot goal 1:17 later tightened the Eagles’ grip on the lead.