Wayzata boys' hockey coach Pat O'Leary can count his team's victory total this season on two hands. But the state championship ring he could wear on his left hand and the unyielding faith it represents is one reason why his team upset Edina.
Wayzata returns to defend its title after a stunning 3-1 victory against No. 2 Edina in Wednesday's Class 2A, Section 6 championship game at Mariucci Arena.
"People have said, 'The underdogs' or 'The Cinderella story' but I think it's more the belief that we were going to play well tonight," O'Leary said.
Griffin Ness of the Trojans (10-17-1) scored 25 seconds into the game and hit the empty net with one second remaining. Goaltender Reid Waszczenko stopped 29 shots, often snuffing great Hornets' chances.
Edina (20-6-1) had beaten Wayzata in three previous meetings this season, but Hornets' coach Curt Giles remained wary of the Trojans.
"We didn't finish on a couple good chances early in the game," Giles said, "and they are so good defensively, the longer it goes the tougher it gets."
Eden Prairie 4, Holy Family 3: Casey Mittelstadt knew what was coming when he sent a pass toward Nick Leivermann.
Leivermann's third-period goal put the top-ranked Eagles ahead to stay in a thrilling victory against Holy Family in the Class 2A, Section 2 championship game at Mariucci Arena.
From the backyard rink to practice and even in past varsity games, Leivermann buries his shot, Mittelstadt recalled. This time, however, Leivermann wasn't so sure.
"Last game I was having some problems getting pucks to the net," said Leivermann, a senior defenseman who signed with Notre Dame last fall. "[Assistant] coach Tom Gerdes told me to relax and just shoot."
He put the puck just under the crossbar for a power-play goal and put his Eagles back in the state tournament. Eden Prairie (21-4-2), runner-up at state last March, ran its winning streak to 15 games.
The Eagles also maintained their playoff mastery of No. 4 Holy Family (22-5-1) with a fourth postseason victory in five seasons.
But winning wasn't easy. Goals from Nick Michel (second period) and Mack Byers (third) put the Fire ahead by a goal each time.
Holy Family was playing in the program's first section final. "It was their first time here, but you would have never known it," Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said.
Leivermann's goal with a little more than seven minutes to play didn't end the drama. The Fire was awarded a power play with 56 seconds to go and pulled their goalie for a two-man advantage.
A final shot with only seconds remaining skipped off the skate of Eagles' goalie Nick Wiencek.
"We had one shot to maybe get us to overtime," said Fire coach Noel Rahn, whose team had won 15 of its past 16 games. "Both teams played their hearts out."