ST. PAUL — Drawing a tough assignment in its first-ever state tournament appearance, the Stillwater boys’ hockey team had enough on its plate before some early bounces that paved the way for Edina’s convincing 6-1 victory in Thursday’s Class AA state quarterfinals at the Xcel Energy Center.
The top-seeded and tournament-tested Hornets (23-4-1) scored their first two goals without taking a shot on goal and provided a rude welcome for the new kids on the block while jumping out to a four-goal lead in the first period.
Tyler Nanne scored just eight goals all season, but notched a hat trick in the opening period and finished with four on the night as Edina skated into the semifinals.
The Ponies (16-12-2) bounced back with a stronger showing on Friday, but were eliminated by Duluth East 2-1 in overtime of the consolation semifinals at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. The results were not what Stillwater was hoping for on a trip 59 seasons in the making.
“It’s tough to lose like that, but it’s a great experience to be out here in front of all the people,” said Ponies senior Brandon Jungmann, who scored the game-winning goal in Stillwater’s dramatic section finals victory over Hill-Murray and the team’s lone goal against the Hornets. “It’s pretty fun hearing all those people cheering for us, we just wish it could have happened a few more times.”
Edina held a 27-13 advantage in shots on goal and scored three special teams goals, including two on the power play and one while skating short-handed. Facing a high-powered team that didn’t need any assistance, the Ponies were tested with some early misfortune. Nanne’s first goal came after dumping the puck into the right corner, but it bounced out to the side of the net and off the back of goaltender Josh Benson’s skate and into the net just 54 seconds into the game. Less than five minutes later, Nanne attempted a crossing pass that deflected off the stick of Stillwater defenseman Zach Eder-Zdechlik and into the net.
“That was not part of the game plan, for sure,” Ponies coach Matt Doman said. “To fall behind a team like that, it’s going to be a long night for you. Right now, obviously it’s frustrating, disappointing and unfortunate, but sometimes in this game you make your own bounces. They came out hard, they dictated the pace of play to start the game and you have to give them all the credit in the world.”
The back-breaker followed with Stillwater skating on the power play when Dylan Malmquist, who was the target of Nanne’s previous pass-turned goal, took the puck and scored a short-handed goal for a 3-0 lead midway through the opening period.
Anytime you’re down 2-0 you know you need to come back right away, and when they pop a shorty like that it kind of takes the wind out of your sails,” Jungmann said. “We knew we had to come back hard and we got one back, but just couldn’t come back all the way.”
Nanne completed his hat trick with a power play goal at 10:36 of the first period.
The Hornets played the part of the defending champions playing in their eighth consecutive state tournament.
“I feel like they had a little more experience here,” Jungmann said. “We had a little jitters at the beginning of the game, playing in front of all these people — the biggest crowd we’ve played in front of — so we were a little antsy to start and they have a little more experience being here the last eight years.”
Edina had an apparent goal in the second period waved off because of goalie interference, but Casey Dornbach extended its lead to 5-0 at 4:22 of the period. Jungmann scored for Stillwater less than two minutes later, but the Hornets did not let up.
Nanne also struck for his fourth goal midway through the third period to provide the final margin.
Stillwater 0 1 0 — 1
Edina 4 1 1 — 6
First period — 1. Ed, Tyler Nanne (unassisted) :54; 2. Ed, Nanne (Ryan Zuhlsdorf, Kieffer Bellows) pp, 5:26; 3. Ed, Dylan Malmquist (Miquel Fidler) sh, 8:37; 4. Ed, Nanne (Malmquist, Bellows) pp, 10:36.
Second period — 5. Ed, Casey Dornbach (Malmquist) 4:22; 1. St, Brandon Jungmann (Wyatt Stotts, Sam Sagissor) pp, 5:51.
Third period — 6. Ed, Nanne (Zuhlsdorf, Malmquist) 7:19.
Penalties — St, 5-10:00; Ed, 5-10:00.
Saves — St (Josh Benson) 7-4-10—21; Ed (Andrew Ronkohl) 3-6-3—12.
Duluth East 2,
Stillwater 1 (OT)
At Minneapolis, with little time to dwell on their loss a night earlier, the Ponies came out strong against the fourth-seeded Greyhounds in Friday’s consolation semifinals before falling 2-1 in overtime.
Brian Bunten, who tied the game at 1-all in the second period, delivered the game-winner for Duluth East at 3:07 of the extra session to cap a spirited game between teams hoping to earn one final game to close out the season.
“They’re a good team,” Ponies coach Matt Doman said. “I mean, that’s why they were one of the top five teams in the state all year and the respect they showed in the line just made it even that much more special to play against a team like that with the history they have and the coach they have. They played a solid game from start to finish and you have to tip your hat to them.”
Unlike the previous night when the Ponies were plagued by a sluggish opening period, Tyler Benson scored on a feed from Jon Peterson to provide a 1-0 lead eight minutes into the game.
“I known as coaches, we were excited to give our guys another chance,” Doman said. “We proved in the first period that we were ready. I thought we played really well to start the game, that was the difference for us. We competed hard, and when we do that we’re going to be in there.”
“(Thursday night) was just an incredible experience for us. It was the Xcel, there were tons of people there and that’s the game that everyone wants to play in, but after that loss we were ready to bounce back,” senior defenseman Mitch Reinke said. “We weren’t ready to be done today. We definitely wanted to win it and we were prepared for it.”
The Bulldogs, who played the late quarterfinal game the previous night, picked up the pace in the second period while outshooting Stillwater 18-3.
“I think in the first we jumped out on them a little bit and the second they took it to us,” Doman said. “The third was pretty even and the overtime was pretty even.”
The difference came when Bunten broke free on a breakaway and finished for the game-winner, igniting a celebratory pile-up that would have looked right at home in the championship semifinals.
“They got a great opportunity and they buried their chance. Hats off to them,” Doman said.
Thanks largely to that second period, the Greyhounds held a 38-24 advantage in shots on goal in the game. Josh Benson played well while making 36 saves for the Ponies.
Similar to Edina, the Greyhounds are competing in their sixth straight state tournament and 20th overall.
“It’s been incredible for us, the first experience for everyone in the community here and it’s just been unreal,” Reinke said. “It didn’t quite go the way we wanted it to, but it was so huge for us to get here — an unreal experience. I’m just really proud of my team, my coaching staff and huge thanks to all the community for supporting us along the way.”
Stillwater 1 0 0 0 — 1
Duluth East 0 1 0 1 — 2
First period — 1. St, Tyler Benson (Jon Peterson) 7:58.
Second period — 1. DE, Brian Bunten (Nick Altmann, Bryan Lutzka) 11:29.
Third period — No scoring.
Overtime — 2. DE, Bunten (unassisted) 3:07.
Penalties — St, 0-0:00; DE, 0-0:00.
Saves — St (Josh Benson) 8-17-10-1—36; DE (Gunnar Howg) 7-3-8-0—23.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at email@example.com