Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Panthers Work OT to Earn Title Shot

Nick Poehling is mobbed by his Lakeville North teammates after his game-winning goal in the second overtime to beat Eden Prairie 5-4, sending the Panthers to the Class AA state championship game. (MHM Photo / Jordan Doffing)

 

SAINT PAUL—The state semifinal matchup between Lakeville North and Eden Prairie truly was a tale of two games; it just happened that the Panthers won the one that mattered. After the teams combined for eight goals in the game’s first 34 minutes, the next 33:25 were scoreless. That was until Lakeville North’s Nick Poehling scored his second goal of the game and 14th of the season at 8:26 of the second overtime to propel the Panthers into Saturday night’s Class AA title game.

The contest would not have even reached overtime had it not been for Poehling’s game-tying goal in the final minute of the second period. Poehling’s brother Jack helped out with three assists and Jack Sadek tossed in three points of his own (1-2–3) to help Lakeville North to its first-ever championship game.

Henry Enebak, the overtime hero in the Panthers’ quarterfinal win over Roseau, threw a puck at the net from the left point which Eden Prairie defenseman Charlie Lawrence got a stick on. But the puck was redirected to Poehling in the right circle who one-timed a shot which beat Eagles’ goalie Jake Gerdes who finished with 20 saves.

Lakeville North coach Trent Eigner could be seen jumping for joy up and down the Panther’s bench when Poehling scored. Who could really blame him, though?

“It’s such a joy coaching kids and bringing them to this point,” Eigner said. “For Lakeville North right now, every step we take is a first. It takes a special group of kids to forge a new path and these kids are doing it.

“To say it’s exciting is a mild understatement.”

“In overtimes we’ve had our ups and downs, a few years ago we were on the other side of it,” Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said. “So it’s just who’s going to be the hero?”

The game got off to a deceivingly slow start with neither team able to get a shot on goal until the 3:55 mark but, just seven seconds later, the floodgates were blown wide open. Jack Sadek’s unassisted goal for Lakeville North at 4:02 got the ball rolling and when the ice chips finally settled nine shots and 9:32 later, Eden Prairie led the Panthers 3-2.

Lakeville North freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger took the brunt of the barrage in surrendering a trio of first-period goals, but recovered to finish with 26 saves while coming up big in overtime.

“I just tried to regroup in the locker room and all the guys were supportive,” Oettinger said. “I made the big save when they needed to be made and it feels good to help the team.”

“For us, a team that’s kind of a 1.5 goals against type of team, it wasn’t exactly a period we were too thrilled about,” Eigner said.”More importantly than the score at the end of the first … I just thought we were getting beat up physically. It’s a mature group of kids and I was honest with them, I told them we weren’t very good and if we continued that way we’d be done.”

Smith wasn’t all that pleased with the opening period’s firewagon hockey demonstration himself.

“We didn’t want to get in a run-and-gun game with them,” Smith said. “We did that the first time we played them and they beat us 7-0. So we wanted it to be tight checking.”

The Eagles boosted their lead to two goals on Michael Parrish’s wrist shot from between the circles at 7:58 and appeared to have seized some degree of control over what had been an untamed contest.  But goals by Lakeville North’s Tristan Hazlett and Poehling 59 seconds apart in the period’s final two minutes sent the game into the final period all square at 4-4.

“I thought we had [Oettinger] a little bit rattled,” Smith said. “Then when we quit shooting the puck in the second he got himself composed and then I thought he played pretty well with the stuff we were throwing at him later in the game.”

Smith said he was most disappointed for his 11 seniors who he will miss dearly.

“I’m so proud of our guys, the way they competed, and every one of the guys showed up today” Smith said. “We played hard for our community and we gave it everything we had. That’s a good hockey team that beat us.”