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Edina breaks open Section 6AA title game in the third

Eden Prairie forward John Mittelstadt (9) thwarted a first period shot by Eric Rinzel of Holy Family Catholic in the first period of their Section 2AA title game Wednesday in Minneapolis. Eden Prairie prevailed 3-1 for a trip to the state tournament. (Collin Nawrocki / Holy Family Catholic)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Don’t adjust your TV set. That buzzing you’re hearing is normal for this time of year in Minnesota, as here come the Hornets again.

Edina broke open a close game in the third period on Wednesday, Feb. 27, storming past Benilde-St. Margaret’s 5-1 to claim the Section 6AA title and a return trip to the state tournament, where they will be seeking the school’s record 13th title.

Leading 2-1 in the third period, the Hornets killed a penalty, then broke the game open while keeping pucks away from their own net. Edina goalie Louden Hogg needed just nine saves for the win, as the Hornets improved to 24-2-1.

“I give these kids a lot of credit. They had to play awfully patient for half or probably two-thirds of this game. It could’ve been easy to get frustrated as we had some good chances early and they didn’t go in,” said Edina coach Curt Giles. “Sometimes you get frustrated with that and do some things you’re not accustomed to doing. The good thing with these guys is they stuck with it.”

After a scoreless first period, back-to-back tripping penalties on the Red Knights in the second gave Edina more than a minute of 5-on-3 power play, and the Hornets converted with Mason Nevers blasted a shot past Benilde goalie Carson Limesand from the left circle

Benilde needed more than 12 minutes to even get a shot on goal in the second period, but while Hogg was going mostly untested in one end of the rink, Limesand was busy, facing 11 shots in the second and stopping a breakaway by Hornets senior Liam Malmquist with a blocker save.

The Hornets doubled their lead just 67 seconds into the final period when a Nick Williams shot was re-directed by Brett Chorske from 10 feet outside the crease. The Red Knights finally got a puck past Hogg with just over 13 minutes left when Jonah Mortenson scored his eighth of the season. When Benilde got its first power play of the game a short time later, the momentum seemed clearly on the side of the Red Knights. But Edina did not allow a shot to get to Hogg during the man advantage.

“In a lot of ways I thought we had it where we wanted it at that point because I felt pretty fortunate to after two (periods) that it was just 1-0, because they had the better of the play,” said Benilde coach Ken Pauly. “We made it 2-1, but special teams are critical. We didn’t bury our chance and that was the ballgame.”

When Jett Jungels tucked a backhand shot between Limesand’s pads with just under seven minutes to play, and Grant Morton scored less than a minute later, formal plans for the 39th all-time state tournament trip by an Edina team were all but set. Kevin Delaney added a late goal as Edina pulled away.

Limesand recorded with 22 saves for the Red Knights, who finished the season 20-8-0.

Section 2AA: Enough offense early for Eden Prairie

Trips to the state tournament -- nine of them now -- never get old for Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith, but even he admitted this one is different, in a good way. That difference was evident on the Eagles’ first goal in a 3-1 win over Holy Family Catholic in the Section 2AA title game, with senior left winger Garrett Smith getting an assist.

“This is pretty special because of this group of seniors, my son is part of it, and as they’ve grown up I’ve seen them in PeeWees and Bantams, so that’s fun,” said Smith. The Eagles (17-9-2) got early goals from Gophers-bound Mr. Hockey finalist Jack Jensen and Drew Holt for all the offense they would eventually need.

In the other end of the rink, junior goalie Axel Rosenlund had 18 saves as Eden Prairie returned to the tournament for the first time since 2017. They won state titles in 2009 and 2011.

“Since Axel has earned the job, he’s really stepped up and done great work,” Smith said. “That was his best performance. He was really special tonight.”

The Fire, who finish 16-10-1, got their only goal from senior center Sawyer Schugel on a power play in the first period and pressured throughout but could not draw even in their quest for the school’s first state tournament trip. Holy Family goalie Bailey Huber finished with 29 saves but was on the bench when Carter Batchelder’s empty net goal for the Eagles with 15 seconds remaining sealed the win.