Eden Prairie forward Garrett Smith was bowled over from behind. And, the way Smith tells it, that was a good thing.
Sprawling face first toward the Blaine net, Smith, with arms outstretched, somehow managed to get the shaft of his stick on a loose puck and, using his momentum, push it into the net.
All while doubling as a human Zamboni.
“I got a jab from the guy behind me, and I kind of used that to my advantage,” said Smith, whose second-period goal helped propel the Eagles to a 4-3 victory over the Bengals on Friday in the Class 2A state semifinals.
“I’ve been known for maybe those greasier goals.”
The goal was just the fifth of the season for Smith, the son of Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith. Garrett’s goal came just 25 seconds after senior defenseman Keegan Langefels had scored on a power play. The scoring spurt pulled the Eagles into a 2-2 tie.
“Tying the game up was huge for our team,” said Garrett, a senior.
“Especially after we got that goal the shift before and got a lot of momentum for our guys.”
Smith is part of the Eagles’ third tandem of wings. He joins senior Carson Jones in a role that calls mostly for diligent defense and fierce forechecking.
Goals aren’t part of the job description, although they certainly are welcome.
“It’s always good to have the whole team scoring,” said senior Jack Jensen, the team’s leading scorer and a Mr. Hockey Award finalist.
“That’s huge. If you have that, momentum is going to be amazing.”
Jones matched Smith’s unexpected output with 34 seconds left in the second period when he scored just his second goal of the season. That put the Eagles ahead 4-2.
“Hopefully, they get ready for tomorrow and do the same thing,” said Jensen, who has 35 goals and 25 assists.
Jensen was matched up mostly against Blaine’s top line featuring Bryce Brodzinski, another Mr. Hockey finalist who, like Jensen, has committed to Minnesota. Jensen was held without a point for just the third time all season.
He played more than half of Eden Prairie’s triple-overtime marathon victory against Lakeville South in the quarterfinals on Thursday as Smith rotated Jensen and senior Spencer Rudrud exclusively at center.
“We also got a couple of shifts out of our fourth line in the first period,” Lee Smith said about Friday’s game.
“You have to kind of give [Jensen and Rudrud] a break here and there. And spot some other guys in there who can play center.”