The strength of the Hornet: Edina Boys take silver in State Hockey Tournament


courtesy of Charles Dekker

Juniors Bobby Cowan and Jackson Nevers celebrate at the Minnesota Boys Hockey State Tournament. “I’m just happy—I guess not happy with the way it turned out, but it was an unbelievable experience just getting to go there and then succeed and get into the final game really means a lot to me and, I’m sure, everyone on my team,” Cowan said.

Jane Porter and Celeste Eckstein

The Edina Boys Varsity Hockey team went into the 2023 State Tournament not only hoping to win a trophy, but to uphold the legacy that is the Edina Hockey program’s long-standing success. With the third seed and a record of 22-6-1, the Hornets felt confident they could go far in the tournament.

With over 30 tournament appearances and 13 wins, this year’s team had a reputation of excellence to uphold. Longtime head coach Curt Giles explained that the players understand the history and responsibility of what it means to be a member of the varsity hockey team. “You take a look at some of these kids coming up through this tradition, they know there’s tradition here, and they know what it means to play for Edina, and they know what it means to put the Hornet on,” Giles said. 

Junior Bobby Cowan explained the additional pressure that comes with being a Hornet. “No matter who you play, they’re always gonna bring their A-game because everyone hates Edina, everyone just wants to beat Edina,” he said. “So every game, we have to come to play.” 

Going into the quarterfinal game against the unseeded Moorhead Spuds, many expected it to be an easy win for the Hornets. However, Moorhead put up a fight, scoring within the first six minutes of the game. Heading into the second period with a 1-1 tie, the Hornets took control of the pace of play and earned a two goal lead. Momentum shifted back and forth as Moorhead and Edina exchanged shots. Twice, Edina scored and Moorhead rapidly responded with a goal of their own. However, by the middle of the third period, Edina expanded their lead to 6-3. 

Despite the Hornets’ large lead, Moorhead evened out the score with 58 seconds left in the game, securing three goals in eight minutes. 

The teams headed into overtime. Battling for a spot in the semifinals, neither the Hornets nor the Spuds managed to score. With tensions high and a mere two minutes into the second overtime, Charlie Sandven scored, giving the Hornets victory and sending them to the Xcel Center to battle against Cretin Derham Hall the next day. 

The standout player of the game was Cowan, who earned his first hat trick of the season through the help of his linemates, juniors Jackson Nevers and Ryan Flaherty. “I’ve never had a ‘more-than-one-goal’ game in my high school career, and having it come in the state tournament is just unbelievable,” Cowan said. “But, I mean, I never thought it would happen, I just kept scoring.”

The line change putting Cowan, Flaherty, and Nevers together was made late in the season after the team got “smoked” in a 7-0 loss to Wayzata. “We had to shake something up and do something different, try and get a little bit of momentum and get a better feel and a little more energy going into the postseason,” Giles said. “We just wanted to put those guys together and see if there’s any chemistry and see what’s going to work out, and fortunately for us, that line has worked out, it’s got some really good chemistry.” 

Cowan agrees that the line change was beneficial. “I couldn’t be more happy. I love playing with Jackson; [Flaherty’s] been one of my close buddies for the longest time, so I guess the chemistry was always there,” Cowan said. 

 Many of the Hornets have a long history of playing together, starting in the youth hockey league and working their way up. “I’ve grown up playing with them my whole life pretty much,” Cowan said. He added that he’s been on a team with all the other Hornets “at least once.”

Edina hoped to use that chemistry and connection between players as they prepared for their highly anticipated semifinal game pitting Edina against Cretin Derham Hall, an unseeded team who had upset second seeded Maple Grove in quarterfinals. After his hattrick the night before, Cowan kicked off the game with a goal assisted by Sandven. However, CDH responded and were able to tie up the score 1-1 by the end of the first period. While CDH continuously got shots on goal, senior goaltender Robbie Clarkowski fended off any true scoring chances with the help of Edina’s strong defense. “The [team] played super well in front of me and blocked a ton of shots,” Clarkowski said. “So I didn’t really have to do too much.”

Entering the third period the Hornets were up 2-1 because of a second period goal from freshman Mason West, Edina retook control and proved themselves the dominant team of the game. “We’re a pretty big team, so we like to use that to our advantage,” Nevers said. “We wear down guys hitting them, getting them tired, and it pays off in the third period, as we saw [in the semifinal].” Flaherty secured the win for the Hornets by scoring twice, once on an empty net, and bringing the Edina Hornets into the championship game. 

Knowing that the Minnetonka Skippers had 19 consecutive wins, Edina went into the championship game prepared to battle. Edina faced off with Minnetonka two times during the regular season and had not yet emerged victorious, but they were ready to leave it all on the ice in search of the state tournament gold. Right off the bat, it was clear the Hornets had brought their A-game, playing with the most energy seen all tournament. Still, the Skippers were able to keep the rink slightly tipped towards Edina’s goal, scoring on the first power play of the game to give them a lead of 1-0. 

As soon as the Hornets hit the ice for the second period, their attitude had undeniably shifted. Control of the game evened out and both teams became more aggressive in their offensive attempts. The Hornets efforts paid off with an early goal by Cowan in the third period as they kept energy levels high throughout the remainder of the game. Despite a Minnetonka goal halfway through the final period, the Hornets persevered, almost tying the score with a shot that bounced off both Minnetonka goal posts. “Honestly I just thanked the gods for that one,” Minnetonka goalie Kaizer Nelson said. “Gave the posts a little rub after saying thanks.”

“They’re good. I mean, they’re trying. They got letter jackets, they’re working their butt off, they played a great game. Those guys, that’s their A-game. And we played well,” Minnetonka coach Sean Goldsworthy said. “But tip your cap to Edina, it’s not like they’re not trying or not doing their jobs; they’re well prepared and they executed.”

“Lucky bounce here and a lucky bounce there, that’s always a fortunate thing to get when you get it, and when you don’t get it, it’s one of those things,” Giles said. “It’s not your day sometimes, so it is what it is.”

Even though the Hornets were unable to secure a championship win, this year’s team made it further than any other recent teams by playing in the final game of the tournament, reasserting Edina’s legacy as one the top teams in the state. While the Hornets reflect on their season with pride, players returning next year are ready to finish what they started. “[We] always just do better than the year before, and [we] always want to just win the state championship,” Cowan said. “Our juniors will have to step up and be leaders.”