There were few empty seats at Eden Prairie Community Center for Saturday’s main event between No. 3 ranked Edina and the No. 6 ranked Eagles.
This is typical when the crosstown rivals clash. But following Eden Prairie’s disappointing 9-3 loss to the Hornets, a handful of young fans remained after most spectators had left the building and waited patiently – albeit eagerly – outside the Eagles’ locker room.
When Eden Prairie head coach Mike Terwilliger emerged from the room, the group pounced, asking their fourth-grade teacher at Cedar Ridge Elementary if they could go inside to meet the players.
“Tonight’s not the night,” Terwilliger told the group. “But thanks for coming.”
After spending a few minutes with his class and hearing about the various treats consumed from the concession stand, he concluded by saying, “Enjoy your Sunday, and I’ll see you on Monday,” adding, “Sorry we didn’t get the ‘W’ for ya.”
The fourth graders left the rink with smiles and chatter, a contrast from the Eden Prairie locker room, where Terwilliger’s team had higher hopes for the contest than the lopsided final score reflected.
“They’re pretty disappointed,” Terwilliger said. “There were periods of the game, five-on-five, where we liked the way we played. We had a nice power play goal, but I think we gave up five goals on the penalty kill. So it’s hard to win when you do that.”
Four of those Edina goals came in a span of one minute and 48 seconds in the first period. The barrage began two minutes into a five-minute major penalty for boarding assessed to Eden Prairie senior defenseman Dylan Vornwald.
With the score tied 1-1, Vornwald was called for the infraction with 5:55 remaining in the period. By the time the Eagles were back to full strength, the Hornets had taken full advantage, putting away four consecutive goals to take a 5-1 lead.
A major penalty must be served in full, regardless if any number of goals are scored by the team on the power play.
The decision to call a major penalty was unfortunate and, according to some who saw the play at close range, questionable. It’s undeniable the penalty changed the entire complexion of the game, leaving the Eagles with a four-goal deficit at the end of the first period.
Terwilliger did not comment on the call, but focused more on sending a message to his team.
“We need to do a better job on the penalty kill,” he said. “We killed the first two minutes of it pretty good. And then after that, the next three minutes weren’t good and that just made a pretty big hole.”
During the first intermission, Terwilliger instructed his team to put the first 17 minutes behind them and win the second period.
“The (first) period is over and let’s just try to get the next one,” he told them. “If we can run about one or two, you never know, right? So you get to 5-2 or 5-3, and they hear footsteps.”
He was also encouraged by the way players kept positive, saying, “It wasn’t like it was silent in there. They were saying the right things to each other, but it’s just too little, too late. And we have to give credit to Edina. Their power play is really good.”
Edina scored two more goals midway through the second period to take a 7-1 lead, prompting Terwilliger to relieve senior goalie Isaiah Paulnock, who has been outstanding all season.
The move was made in an effort to give the team a spark.
“We were trying something new. And (backup goalie) Jack (Miodozyniec) did a nice job of coming in, which is hard to do when you come in the middle of a game,” Terwilliger said before quickly adding, “But have full confidence in Isaiah.”
The Eagles responded with two consecutive goals. The first by senior Cole Saterdalen made it 7-2 Edina, and just 1:13 later, senior Tate Bloch notched his first of the year to narrow the gap to four.
“We liked how we responded in the last half of the second period,” Terwilliger said. “We got it to 7-3, and then we had chances to make it 7-4, so you never know if we get that one, but (Edina goalie Joe) Bertram is a really good goalie on their team.”
The nine goals by Edina is far and away the most the Eagles have allowed all season.
Eden Prairie had allowed just six goals in their previous five games, going 4-1 during that stretch coming into the matchup with Edina. Four of their goals against came in a 4-0 loss to top-ranked Minnetonka on Jan. 20.
“If you’d have told me at the start of the night we were going to get three on them, I would have liked our chances, the way we’ve been playing defensively,” Terwilliger said.
Terwilliger hopes the loss will stay with his team just long enough to fuel their fire for the upcoming week.
“It should bug them that they lost on home ice to Edina and that score, too,” he said. “So it should motivate us to work harder and get back on track. But you can’t let it linger too long. I mean, it’s January, so you can’t let it feed into the next week and the next week. Just gotta turn the page and start new on Monday.”
The Eagles (11-6-1) will be back on the ice Tuesday night, hosting White Bear Lake, not long after fourth grade class adjourns at Cedar Ridge Elementary School.
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