It was just the 2nd game of the day in this day-long celebration we call Hockey Day Minnesota, but it featured 2 of the big names in High School Hockey. The top ranked Stillwater Ponies played host to the #6 ranked Eden Prairie Eagles at Lowell Park on the banks of the St. Croix River. The weather was less than optimal for outdoor ice, but the outdoor rink was refrigerated and held up really well despite the temperature.
For much of the game, Stillwater controlled the ice. In the 1st period they out-shot the Eagles 14-7 but finished the frame in a 1-0 hole. That was basically the story of the game. The Eagles would go on to win 4-1 in the end, yet the Ponies controlled a lot of the game and definitely showed more sustained zone pressure than Eden Prairie.
The first goal of the game would be scored by no other than Casey Mittelstadt. Mittelstadt was recently ranked 5th overall by NHL Central Scouting for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. He did not get shy with a state-wide audience today. The play was setup when Nicky Leivermann disrupted a defensive zone exit for the Ponies. The puck floated over to Mittelstadt who scooted into the zone and fired a laser past Seth Eisele who was guarding the cage for Stillwater today.
Stillwater would tie the game in the 2nd period with a power play goal from Matthew Stanton. The Ponies found themselves on the power play, and with how they were able to maintain the zone throughout much of the first half of the game having the extra skater proved useful. Michael Kaufman shifted the puck over to Stanton who rifled a wrist shot from just inside the blue line past Nick Wiencek in goal for the Eagles. The Ponies first goal on their second power play of the day would prove to be their only goal in the game.
While the Eagles were able to stabilize later in the game, and not play so much ‘on the rush’ hockey, they were proving to be a frustrating opponent for Stillwater, with multiple breakaway chances early in the game, and even a few great short handed opportunities along the way.
The Eagles would not leave the 2nd period in a tie game though. Hunter Johannes would get a power play goal of his own to put Eden Prairie back on top (and on top for good). Johannes scored off the rebound from a Jack Jensen. Nolan Sullivan provided the secondary assist on the play and the Eagles sat firmly in the driver seat for the remainder of the game.
The Eagles would add 2 more goals late in the 3rd period from Tim Piechowski and Mittelstadt would score his 2nd goal of the game with an empty net to put a bow on this one. The Eagles defense looked a little shaky early but got their legs under them as the game moved along. Stillwater was consistent throughout the game although they stumbled off a bit in the middle period.
The scene on the St. Croix was amazing. The stands were packed, and the backdrop was second to none we’ve seen on Hockey Day Minnesota so far. We learned during the game that the water for the Zamboni for today’s outdoor games was provided from the vats of Maple Island Brewing. Taking a break from making beer to help with #HDM2017, that’s a cause we can get behind!