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One win separates T.J. Oshie from Stanley Cup

Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (77) checks Vegas Golden Knights left wing Tomas Nosek (92) in the third period in game one of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on May 28, 2018. Gary A. Vasquez / USA TODAY Sports

GRAND FORKS — Cary Eades was starting a 15-hour bus ride home from Youngstown, Ohio.

The Clark Cup was by his side, having just led the Fargo Force to the United States Hockey League championship, when he received a text.

It was from T.J. Oshie.

Oshie and the Washington Capitals lost that night to the Tampa Bay Lightning to fall behind 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.

But Oshie made sure to congratulate Eades, who coached him at Warroad High and again at UND, on winning the Clark Cup.

Eades appreciated the gesture and proposed an idea: How about they both win Cups this year and have one big party to celebrate?

Oshie is one win away from making it happen.

The Capitals came back and beat the Lightning in seven games and are now up 3-1 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final series against the Vegas Golden Knights. Oshie is Washington's second-leading scorer during the Final with six points in four games.

Oshie and the Caps will have a chance to finish off the series at 7 p.m. Thursday in Las Vegas.

The region — from Warroad to Grand Forks to other places in the Red River Valley — will be watching.

Oshie has been a fan favorite since he led Warroad to a pair of Minnesota state boys hockey titles and UND to three NCAA Frozen Fours with flair — slick hands, dazzling moves and punishing physicality.

"He's a special player because he does so many little things that contribute to a team's success," Eades said. "It's really exciting to see him finally get the notoriety he's deserved. He's truly one of the special players in the game right now."

Eades first thought that Oshie might eventually be a special player during his sophomore year of high school.

Oshie had just transferred to Warroad from the Seattle area and started the season on the fourth line. But after Warroad's first-line right winger suffered an injury, Eades decided to move Oshie up to the top line, hoping to keep his second and third lines in tact.

It worked.

Oshie was at his best during the state tournament.

"He really rose to the occasion and had some highlight-reel goals," Eades said. "With the attention, and being under a microscope, he handled that with class and humility. At that point, I thought this kid could be something special. It wasn't the next year that he got a college commitment — recruiting was a bit older back then — but that was really the coming out party for him. That's when I knew he was a great player who could elevate his game at a critical time."

Eades left for UND a year later, and Oshie committed to school there.

After Oshie's senior year, he had a meeting with head coach Dave Hakstol and Eades about whether he would come to campus the next fall or whether he would go play junior hockey in the United States Hockey League for a year.

The coaching staff was tiptoeing around the topic, laying out all of Oshie's options in front of him.

Oshie stood up in the middle of the meeting and said: "I'm ready to come now."

"I remember it vividly," Eades said. "Hak's eyes got big. We cut the meeting short. He walked out. And we said, 'Well, that settles that.'

"He's not a cocky kid, but there was just no doubt in his mind that he was ready to battle. He wasn't expected to be a first-round pick at the time, but later on, in June, he got picked in the first round. That was a moment I'll remember forever."

That's just one memory.

There are plenty of others.

The state titles with Warroad in the Xcel Energy Center. The Frozen Fours in Milwaukee, St. Louis and Denver. The WeFests with T.J.'s father, Tim.

And, perhaps, this summer they can add another memory with their friends, Clark and Stanley.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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