Edina's run to its 11th boys' hockey state championship had plenty of the flash. Although Andy Jordahl, Connor Hurley and Dylan Malmquist combined for 13 points and seven of Edina's 16 goals, the back end of the Hornets made much of that flash possible.
The Hornets' defense stands prominently at the blue line, expertly holding offenses at bay until the Edina flash takes over. And it's even better when defending its net. Just ask Hill-Murray, Duluth East and Lakeville North. Edina's three state tournament victims were beaten up and shut down. Seniors Matt Nelson and Parker Reno made sure of it.
"Our motto is to outwork people," coach Curt Giles said. "And that means to separate people from the puck. We have some big strong kids this year."
The Edina defensive motto was its best in the final two weeks of the season, culminating with its 4-2 championship game victory over the Pioneers. The Hornets twice killed off two-man Hill-Murray advantages.
The first defined the Hornets' defensive core. With two players in the penalty box, Nelson and Reno swarmed around the net to protect it from Hill-Murray's desperate attempts to cut into a 3-1 deficit.
The Pioneers couldn't break their zone.
"I knew that as soon as that second penalty was called, it was a really special part to the game," Nelson said. "Any time you're 5-on-3 in the state championship game, you do anything … take one to the face … to keep the puck out of the net."
Text_Body: The second penalty was in the final minutes of the game, when Hill-Murray pulled its goaltender in a final frenzied bid. Edina's defense once again held strong.
Tyler Nanne joined this effort midway through the season. Though listed as a forward on the roster, the junior dropped back and provided the effectiveness coach Curt Giles required of the position. His scoring abilities and ability to stop other teams' scorers shined throughout the tournament and was a big part of the Hornets' semifinal victory.
So, too, was Reno, among a rare class of Edina players who were a big part of two state championships. He played regularly during the Hornets' 2010 championship run before an injury kept him sidelined as a sophomore. He was at full strength this year, hoping to close out his career the same way it began — as a champion.
"We just stayed calm," Reno said. "We've been in that situation multiple times this year and when it came down to it, we did what we had to do."
And it produced a championship.