After Eden Prairie’s gritty 3-1 win over Prior Lake on Thursday, Billie Jacobson-Couch emerged from the Eagles locker room at Dakotah! Ice Center.
Celebratory music began playing from behind the doorway. It was at that moment he was asked the question, “Did you get the puck?”
“I did. Yeah, it’s in my bag right now,” Jacobson-Couch replied, pointing to a hockey duffel bag large enough to hide a refrigerator.
The junior forward had sent said puck flying into the net to score his first varsity goal.
His relentless effort put the Eagles on the board, tying the game at one at 12:20 of the second period.
“He was pretty determined on that play,” Eagles head coach Mike Terwilliger said. “His first goal ever, which is pretty exciting. It was a huge goal to tie it up.”
Jacobson-Couch’s goal underscored an inspired performance put forth by the Eagles in the second period; an effort that left Prior Lake frustrated and without answer to the swarming Eden Prairie attack.
Trailing 1-0, Jacobson-Couch brought the puck up ice and around the Laker net before taking a shot that hit the post. Junior forward Andy Earl got the rebound, taking another shot which was blocked, only to be followed up by Jacobson-Couch, who finally put the puck in the net.
“Amazing,” Jacobson-Couch said, when asked how it felt to get the first goal of his varsity career. “Amazing, especially in tying it up. It was pretty cool. It’s pretty special.”
The Eagles kept the pressure on Prior Lake for the rest of the second period but the game remained tied at one at the second intermission.
“We thought, ‘Just keep doing what we’re doing. We’re gonna get chances and we were getting chances.’” Terwilliger said. “We talked after the first period to try to get more pucks on net and dig for rebounds.”
In the third period, the Eagles maintained the intensity, taking advantage of opportunities presented by Prior Lake penalties.
The Eagles’ first response came at just 1:13 into the period. On the power play, freshman forward Mason Moe launched a wrist rocket from the slot for what would prove to be the game-winning goal in their first victory since Dec. 27.
“It was a really good game,” Moe said afterwards. “We bounced back from Chaska. We took a loss there and the boys regathered and had a strong win tonight.”
Moe’s goal, his team-leading seventh of the season, came with assists from junior Cole Saterdalen and senior captain Teddy Townsend. But he wasn’t finished just yet.
At 15:12 of the third, the Eagles took advantage of another power play opportunity. Senior defenseman Ryan Koering unleashed a shot from the point that Moe redirected past Prior Lake goalie Ben Mickett.
Moe’s second goal of the game and eighth on the season would seal the win for Eden Prairie.
“It was a sweet dish from Ryan, my teammate at the end there,” Moe said. “I just had my stick on the ice trying to redirect a little bit.”
Koering, the team’s captain and only senior, leads a defensive core that was impenetrable for much of the game. The Eagles frustrated the Lakers, allowing only three shots on goal in the first period and just four shots in the third.
Junior goaltender Isaiah Paulnock finished with 17 saves for Eden Prairie.
“We played pretty well, defensively,” Terwilliger said. “We were happy with the effort. It wasn’t perfect, but Prior Lake is a good team and it was a big game for us just to kind of get back on track.”
Recently, the Dakotah! Ice Center has served as a de facto home rink for the Eagles, who’ve played their last four games in the arena. Eden Prairie posted a win, a tie and a loss at the Tradition Holiday Invitational against Lakeville North, Rogers and Chaska respectively to close out 2022.
Their win Thursday over Prior Lake (6-5) brings the Eagles to 5-6-1 on the season, a trend the head coach hopes to continue.
“We’ve still been really too up-and-down for our liking. Saturday is another big game, every game is a big game,” Terwilliger said.
Eden Prairie will finally return to their home ice this weekend with a chance to get back to .500 against a formidable opponent from the north.
Hermantown, the defending Class A champion and a perennial powerhouse in the always-competitive Lake Superior conference, will make the trip south with an 8-0-1 record.
“Hermantown is gonna be a really good test,” Terwilliger said. “So we’ve got to have another effort at least as good as tonight if not better.”
The opening faceoff between the Eagles and the Hawks is set for 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Eden Prairie Community Center.
“That’s a good game. We’re back at our barn.” Moe said, looking ahead to Saturday’s matchup.
“We haven’t had a home game in quite a bit, so it’ll be a fun one.”
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