Just one day prior to Saturday’s Class 2A state championship game, the Eden Prairie boys’ hockey team found itself in the middle of a high-scoring battle in the semifinals. The game itself had to be decided in overtime.
In said championship game, the Eagles once again headed into overtime. However, Saturday’s game did not match Friday’s in term of offensive prowess.
EP found itself in a 1-1 battle with Lakeville South in the state final. Playing three periods and into a second overtime, the Eagles once again found some offensive magic. Jackson Blake scored a little more than two minutes into the second overtime to give EP the 2021 state championship.
Capturing the Cougars
On paper, it’d be easy to cast the Eagles as the proverbial favorite. Eden Prairie stood as the top seed in the Class 2A tournament with just one loss on its record.
However, the Eagles’ opponent, had plenty to brag about. The Cougars came into the state final unbeaten.
But during this past week’s Class 2A tournament, the teams had advanced in different ways. Eden Prairie used its overwhelming offensive punch as the Eagles tallied six goals in both of their first two state tournament contests.
Meanwhile, Lakeville South had been the comeback kids as the Cougars rallied in both state tournament games after falling behind early.
Once again, Lakeville South found itself trailing early. EP forward Carter Batchelder, who notched a hat trick in the semifinals against Maple Grove on Friday, added to his tally with a goal in the first period to put the Eagles ahead 1-0.
Though EP continued to pepper the Cougars with chances, the Eagles could not break the one-goal threshold. Eventually, the Cougars found their offensive footing and scored in the second period to even the game at one.
The score stayed the same despite plenty of chances for both sides.
Similar to Friday’s 6-5 win over the Crimson, EP’s top line of Batchelder, Drew Holt and Jackson Blake eventually found themselves with a grade-A opportunity to win the game in overtime.
This time, it was Blake’s turn. Pouncing on a loose puck in front of the net in the second overtime, Blake pounded a shot through that gave the Eagles a 2-1 win and the 2021 state championship.
Top line shines
The trio of Blake, Batchelder and Holt became a major storyline of this year’s tournament as the trio were seen quite often out on the ice sporting the red and black.
Based on the group’s production, it’s easy to see why they were relied upon so much. With the goal Saturday, Blake finished the state tournament with 11 points. The University of North Dakota commit finished with 58 points (20 goals, 38 assists).
Batchelder, a Colorado College commit, had the dramatic goal in the semifinal against Maple Grove. He finished the state tournament with nine points and the season with 61 points.
Holt was the master of assists in the state tournament as he finished with seven in three games to go along with a pair of goals. His final point total stands at 57.
A similar win
In 2011, it was Kyle Rau who scored the infamous goal to give Eden Prairie a state championship in boys’ hockey. In 2021, Blake became the latest Eagle to write his name in the history books as a dramatic goal scorer for the Eagles as his goal in the second overtime led EP to victory.
Oddly enough, Blake’s goal gives the Eagles their first state title since the 2011 triumph over Duluth East. Since the 2011 crown, EP has made the state tournament seven times but hadn’t captured that elusive state championship since Rau’s dramatic goal.
For this group of seniors, that lack of championships had to be especially poignant. Each of the past two season, the Eagles had advanced to the state final before finishing as the runner-up. In 2019, EP lost to Lake Conference rival Edina in overtime. A year later, the Eagles lost to Hill-Murray in the state final.