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Edina Zephyrus

The official student-run news publication of Edina High School.

Edina Zephyrus

The official student-run news publication of Edina High School.

Edina Zephyrus

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“They wanted to win”: leadership and maturity propel Edina Boys’ Hockey to their 14th state title 

Edina Boys’ Hockey celebrates their 14th State Championship. Photo courtesy of Troy Stein.

Under a minute to go. Chanhassen pulls their goalie. A palpable tension hovers in the air as the Hornets lead by a goal. The Edina student section holds its collective breath. A team will soon be crowned champion. 30 seconds. Chanhassen pressures Edina with a six-on-five. The crowd gasps as Chanhassen flings the puck on net, barely missing. Their last-second push unsuccessful, the goal horn sounds to declare a Hornet victory! Edina goalie Joe Bertram throws down his stick in celebration as the rest of the team piles onto him.

Before the championship, this year’s Boys’ State High School Hockey Tournament was wide open. The clear-cut number one seed and defending champion, Minnetonka, had their historic undefeated season brought to an end in their section final, beaten 2–1 by Chanhassen. Similarly, Edina knocked off number two-ranked Wayzata during their section final. With the original top two teams out, the tournament was open for the taking. 

While Edina was awarded the number one seed in the tournament, their mentality going into the slate of upcoming games was not one of hubris. “A big part of our team [identity] is we’re under the radar,” senior defenseman Barrett Dexhiemer said. Edina Head Coach Curt Giles described their blueprint for success as a relentless focus on control. “We don’t worry about other teams. They can do whatever they want to do. All we want to do is control what we do. Treat our opponents with respect, treat the game with respect,” Giles said. It was clear the Hornets were coming in laser-focused on their goal: winning a state championship.

The quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 7 against Elk River was mostly smooth sailing for the Hornets. Edina played a solid first period, up 1–0 at the first intermission. They came out fast and dictated the pace, sustaining time in the offensive zone. They maintained their momentum in the second period, hitting Elk River with a flurry of goals. “The second period killed us,” Elk River’s Head Coach Ben Gustafson said. Notably, sophomore Casey Vandertop scored his first hat trick of the year allowing Edina to pull ahead 6–1 by the end of the second period. Edina’s offense cooled off in the third period, but Elk River was not able to complete a comeback. The final score of the quarterfinal was 6–2. 

 Four of Edina’s six goals in the quarterfinal came from underclassmen. Contributions from the underclassmen through all three periods helped lead them to an easy win in game one of the tournament. This maturity was built off of strong leadership, something that is necessary in order to persevere through the toughest opponents.“The good thing about this team is we have good leadership,” Giles said. The barrage of scoring from underclassmen highlighted the lethal nature of this Edina squad. The maturity of the younger players is what makes the team so difficult to defeat. “They’ve contributed substantially the entire year,” Giles said. “They adapted extremely well [and] have contributed a lot of good situational minutes.”

The next day in the semifinals, Grand Rapids came out and matched Edina’s pace of play. They gave the Hornets little space to maneuver creating an evenly matched game for the first half of the first period. However, Edina then opened the floodgates and goals started rolling in. Within the span of 10 minutes, Edina racked up four unanswered goals. Despite some sloppy play in the third period causing Edina to struggle with penalties, they cruised to a 5–2 win against Grand Rapids and advanced to the championship. 

Postgame, Grand Rapids noted that Edina’s size and speed is what makes them such a hard team to beat. “They’re a heavy team and they play with great speed,” Grand Rapids Head Coach Grant Clafton said. “They [also] score in bunches.” This trend is evident in Edina’s huge multi-goal surges in the second period of game one and the first period of game two. 

Reflecting on the lead-up to the state championship, Giles reiterated his motto of focusing on what the team could control.“The main thing in our thought process is to worry about us,” he said. Harkening back to the maturity and leadership of the group, Giles explained that it’s on the players, not the coaches, to stay focused and in control heading into the championship. “We’re not in the [locker room] all the time. We have to have good leadership. [The players] control the locker room and set the tempo,” he said. 

One of the team’s top leaders on the ice and in the locker room, Captain Jackson Nevers, explained how the experience of playing and losing in the championship last year prepared them for this year’s game. “Half our team has been in this position going into tomorrow,” Nevers said. “The pain we felt losing [the championship] last year, I’ve thought about it every single day.” 

In the championship game, both teams were evenly matched. Neither team sustained much time in the offensive zone during the first period, rebuffed by powerhouse defense. While Chanhassen had a couple of good opportunities on a late-period power play, they were still unable to capitalize. Going into the first intermission, the score remained 0–0. 

The first half of the second period was more of the same. High intensity and physicality from each side made it clear that both teams were getting desperate to score first. With just under seven minutes left in the second period, Chanhassen scored off of a redirect. After two periods of strenuous back and forth, Chanhassen managed to earn a 1–0 lead. Following the long awaited first goal, Edina froze up offensively, quickly getting outshot 15 to five in the second period as their passing and puck movement grew stagnant. Describing the locker room in the second intermission, Giles noted that his team stayed calm. “The cool thing is nobody panicked. You get down by one against a very, very good team. They just hung in there. The message was it’s only one shot to get back into it,” Giles said. Playing from behind for the first time in the tournament, Edina looked to regain their momentum and get on the scoreboard. 

Starting the third period, Edina came out looking sharp. Their offense came back to life and won more time in the offensive zone, including more looks on the net. The Hornets were outshooting Chanhassen six to zero starting the third period. With about 13 minutes left in the third, the tension building on the Hornets finally broke. With a wrist shot from the point, Robbie Hoch evened things out to 1–1. Another cutthroat period ensued, where each team feverishly attempted to break the tie. The game-winning goal came on the power play from senior Bobby Cowan, who put the Hornets up 2–1 with just under seven minutes left in the third period. This was an impressive go-ahead goal, beating Chanhassen goalie Kam Hendrickson over his right shoulder. “Best shot in the state,” Nevers said. The last stretch of the game was extremely tight as Chanhassen pushed to even up the game. Edina goalie Joe Bertram stood tall, stopping all attempts to tie the score, allowing the Hornets to hold on and win their 14th Boys’ State Hockey championship.

Following the victory, Giles congratulated Chanhassen for their time and talent. “I can’t tell you how good a hockey team that was,” Giles said. Closing out the presser, he spoke to his team’s resilience and poise throughout the tournament. “This group of kids that we had this year were some of the easiest [players] that we’ve ever had to get prepared to play hockey. They wanted to win,” he said.

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