East Ridge boys hockey: Raptors fall 5-2 to Eagan in playoffs
Few teams have found a way to compete with fourth-ranked Eagan's speed this season and East Ridge proved no different in a 5-2 loss Saturday in the Section 3AA semifinals at the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum in St. Paul.
The top-seeded Wildcats (23-3-1) showcased that speed immediately in a dominating first period, which saw them go up 2-0 and outshoot the Raptors (14-11-2) 21-2. Eagan appeared in control and took advantage of any mishap East Ridge made in its own zone.
"We haven't seen a team that fast in a long time," Raptors head coach Doug Long said. "We haven't played a team that moves like that."
Zach Schultz scored twice in the first period for the Wildcats and Zach Glienke made it 3-0 in the second period before East Ridge mounted a comeback. The Raptors got goals from Tyler Hart and Devin Donohue to make it 3-2 after a deflating first period.
"They jumped us," Long said. "They brought it right at us and jammed it down our throats in the first period, but you know what, we weathered the storm a little bit in the second period. The second period when they answered back that was pretty big for us."
Hart's goal came 20 seconds after Glienke put Eagan up 3-0 and helped shift the momentum temporarily. East Ridge outshot the Wildcats 11-10 in the period and later 8-6 in the third period. Still, Eagan outshot the Raptors 37-31 for the game.
Cullen Willox scored 40 seconds into the third period to pad the Wildcats' lead and later added an empty net goal with 1:15 left to put the game away.
Eagan drove to the net hard throughout the game and consistently had players in position for rebound opportunities. On top of that any mistake East Ridge made got amplified by the Wildcats' ability to transition quickly.
"When you play a team that is that big and that quick and transitions quick ... the mistakes that you make they exploit them," Long said. "That was the deal, we made one too many mistakes."
Before falling to Eagan, East Ridge opened the playoffs with an overtime victory over Hastings.
Last season East Ridge found itself in an overtime game in the first round of the section playoffs and this time it happened again.
Instead of needing three overtimes to upset second-seeded Apple Valley, the Raptors needed just a minute. Jack Greeley took a drop pass from Ryan Karrow and unleashed a laser on goal to give fourth-seeded East Ridge a 3-2 overtime victory.
"We all had a lot of energy tonight," Greeley said. "None of us wanted to see it end so we went out there and gave it everything we had and we were clicking."
The line of Greeley, Ryan McDonough and Jack Nickoloff accounted for all three goals for the Raptors. Karrow scored a first-period goal and McDonough scored a go-ahead goal in the second period.
East Ridge appeared in line for a victory in the third period until Mark Huneke scored for the Raiders with two minutes to play.
The game-tying goal did little to deter the Raptors in overtime and last year's experience certainly helped them find a way to victory against Hastings.
"It helps when you have senior leadership, it helps when you had success last year in overtime," Long said. "The same thing happened to us last year. They scored right at the end just like Hastings did, although we took it a little deeper, they scored with 17 seconds left. The kids could have folded but the bench was great and the locker room was great. The kids knew that we could do this."
East Ridge outshot the Raiders 30-21 for the game and Tyler Guck made 19 saves for the Raptors.
Joe Shingledecker got Hastings back into the game with a goal at 11:28 of the second period to make it 1-1, but McDonough and East Ridge responded in 17 seconds to regain the lead.