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March Mania

Eden Prairie Eagles win in triple overtime in Class AA hockey quarterfinals

Eden Prairie forward Jack Jensen - Captain (18) shouts for joy as he skates toward the Eagles fans after scoring the winning goal against Lakeville South in the third overtime period of a Class 2A quarterfinal game of the State Boys' Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday March 7, 2019. Eden Prairie beat Lakeville South, 3-2. (John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press)1 / 2
Lakeville South goalie Henry Welsch (1) is consoled by Lakeville South defender Jack Malinski (21) after the Cougars lost 3-2 in the third overtime period of a Class 2A quarterfinal game of the State Boys' Hockey Tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday March 7, 2019. Welsch stopped 63 sot as Eden Prairie beat Lakeville South, 3-2. (John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press)2 / 2

ST. PAUL – Billed as the second half of a double matinee, the Lakeville South-Eden Prairie Class AA quarterfinal game crept its way into primetime and Henry Welsch became the star of the never-ending show with three encores.

But for Welsch, this story ended in tragedy, not triumph, because despite stopping 63 shots in net for South, No. 64 snuck past his left pad on a shot by Eden Prairie captain Jack Jensen with 57 seconds left in the third overtime.

The Eagles won 3-2 Thursday, March 7, at the Xcel Energy Center in a game that lasted three hours and 10 minutes, sending them to a semifinal date with Blaine at 6 p.m. Friday, March 8.

“I was exhausted, but I saw an opening and (John) Mittelstadt had the puck in the corner and no one was really on me,” Jensen said. “I thought, ‘he might pass it to me and I have to bury this’ and luckily it went in.

“I’m still in shock. We’re still alive and it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

No. 3 Eden Prairie (18-9-2) took a 2-0 lead over the unseeded Cougars into the first intermission on goals by Clayton Schultz (his first of the season) and Drew Holt.

Maintaining a 24-9 shots advantage with a two-goal lead late in the second period, the Eagles looked like they might coast to a solid defensive win. But with a 2:10 left in the period, Griffin Ludtke got open in the right circle and slapped home a one-timer past Eden Prairie goaltender Axel Rosenlund’s left shoulder to put South on the board.

Jack Novak tied the game 55 seconds into the third period.

“We were proud of ourselves,” Novak said. “We were down by two and earlier in the season and we came back from that then. We never give up. We knew we could do it; it’s just unfortunate it didn’t go our way in the end.”

Welsch came up two saves short of the record for most saves in a state tournament game, set by Apple Valley’s Karl Goehring in 1996 with 65.

Welsch’s saves seemed to become more and more extravagant as much as they were important as the game progressed through overtime. The senior made 26 of his 63 saves after regulation and helped the Cougars survive Eden Prairie’s 13-shot barrage in double OT.

Eagles left winger put four shots on goal in the second OT, including a redirection from the top of the crease on a centering pass in the final seconds, but Welsch had it covered.

“He’s unbelievable and he has been all year,” Lakeville South coach Janne Kivihalme said. “Our team played really well, defensively, too.”

Rosenlund displayed a moment of heroism himself in the third OT when he sprawled out full-extension to take the puck right off Novak’s stick at the side of the net to keep him from putting the puck into the wide-open goal. Rosenlund finished with 27 saves.

The Eagles also survived a chaotic scramble in front of its net in the second overtime with Rosenlund struggling to regain position in the crease.

Had the game gone scoreless the remaining 57 seconds to force a fourth overtime, the contest would’ve been suspended, and the teams would’ve been forced to reconvene at the arena at 8 a.m. Friday and the game would not have been broadcast.

The Eagles feel fortunate to have avoided that quick turnaround against a Blaine team they defeated 7-6 on Dec. 22, as if they aren’t weary enough.

“You could feel the legs with each shift (at the end of the game),” Jensen said. “The adrenaline keeps you going, as well as the fans. It’s the time of your life.”

Bengals bury White Bear Lake early

Blaine didn’t score a goal in the final 31 minutes, but the four it scored previously gave the Bengals enough breathing room to seal the 4-2 quarterfinal win against White Bear Lake.

Cole Hansen scored twice and added an assist and Carsen Richels finished with a goal and two assists to lead the Blaine offense. The Bengals scored four goals over a nine-minute span starting with a Bryce Brodzinski goal with six minutes left in the first period and Richels sealed the stretch three minutes into the second with his team-leading 40th goal of the season.

Grant Hofeld answered 30 seconds after the Richels goal to put the Bears on the board and Samuel Newpower cut the lead in half with a goal late in the second period, but Blaine put the clamps down in the third period.

Joe Daninger got the win with 27 saves and Evan Foss made 26 for White Bear Lake.

The Bengals are unbeaten in 19 straight games going back to the Dec. 22 loss to Eden Prairie.

Hornets continue success in quarters

Top seed Edina celebrated a quarterfinal victory at the state tournament Thursday, which should come as a surprise to no one. The Hornets have won all five of their state quarterfinal games going back to 2013, most recently, a 4-2 win against unseeded Moorhead.

Like both afternoon games, the victor jumped out to a 2-0 lead and Edina didn’t relinquish it. Jett Jungels scored 57 seconds into the game and Mason Nevers added a goal late in the period. Edina’s Liam Malmquist answered a Moorhead goal by Cullen Gess with a goal four minutes later to put the Hornets back up by two.

The Spuds made the game interesting as clock ticked toward the final three minutes. Nolan Westra took cross-ice pass from Kyler Kleven through the neutral zone at the red line and fired a shot past Edina goalie Louden Hogg’s right side from the right circle.

Moorhead’s best chance to tie the game came with two minutes left when Kleven received a back-door pass, but Hogg’s right shoulder stopped Kleven’s point-blank wrister.

The Hornets survived the Moorhead pressure and Kevin Delaney scored an empty-netter with 29 seconds left.

Edina (25-2-1) will face St. Thomas Academy in the late Class AA semifinal game Friday night.

STA survives, gets over the hump

St. Thomas Academy sustained a stretch of dominance in the Class A state tournament until its most recent championship in 2013 and though the Cadets have been a familiar team in the Class AA tournament, they were still chasing that first AA win.

With Ryan O’Neill’s goals in the first and third periods, No. 4 STA advanced to the semifinals for the first time among the big schools with a 3-1 win against fifth-seeded Duluth East, erasing a four-game losing streak in the quarterfinal round.

O’Neill put the Cadets on the board with the only goal of the first period, but STA counted on its defense, stellar goaltending by Muzzy Donohue and little bit of luck to withstand a relentless East attack.

When Charlie Erickson put the Greyhounds on the board with 4:35 remaining in the second period, the momentum swung fully in favor of Duluth East when it had already been knocking on the door for much of the second period.

The Greyhounds (18-7-2) hit a couple posts late in the second and attacked the Cadets (22-3-1) net with mad scrambles throughout the third, but nothing went in.

O’Neill struck again with 7:14 remaining and McClain Beaudette added an empty-net goal with 28 seconds left.