Ben Beattie remembers the 2013 boys’ hockey state tournament fondly because he had a front-row seat.
Ben watched his brother, Mitch, play defense for Eastview at Xcel Energy Center that year. The Lightning lost in the quarterfinals but battled back to reach the consolation championship game before losing to Moorhead.
“It was a cool experience, knowing my brother got to experience such an awesome event,” Ben said. “As a team, we want to experience that, too.”
Ben isn’t just a fan of Eastview hockey anymore. He is the main goaltender for the Lightning, which had a 16-4 record entering the weekend. The Lightning had 10 victories in the South Suburban Conference, where it looks to make the state tournament for the first time since Beattie watched his brother play in 2013.
“That team was fun,’’ said Eastview coach Drey Bradley, who led the 2013 squad. “They were a great group of guys that cared about each other and played hard for each other. This team has a lot of similarities there. They are a pretty tight-knit group.”
Though the Lightning has an impressive record, the team began the season losing three of its first seven games. After Eastview lost 4-3 to Eagan for its third defeat of the season, Bradley said his team just went to work.
“They’re competitors. … So when they’re losing they’re going to try to keep that from happening again,” he said. “After that, we were pretty successful.”
That success came in the form of a 10-game winning streak after the loss to Eagan. Whether it was shutout victories against Hopkins, Hastings, and Rosemount, or high-scoring battles such as a 7-6 victory over Prior Lake, the Lightning found ways to come out on top.
Eastview’s success contrasts with recent years. The Lightning had a 14-10-1 record last season and was 10-12-3 in 2015-16.
“We’ve lost the first game in sections the past two years, but we’ve always had that thought in the back of our minds, trying to get to state,” senior defenseman Lenny Nunn said.
To get back to St. Paul, Eastview likely will have to get past St. Thomas Academy, one of the top teams in Class 2A, Section 3. The Cadets, who defeated Eastview 5-1 on Nov. 29, were 16-1-1 through last weekend.
But Nunn said all of the pressure falls on St. Thomas Academy.
“Right now, yeah, we’re the underdogs,” Nunn said. “I think [the loss to the Cadets] was a good matchup for us, to see where we were at [in] the beginning of the year. If we get a chance to play them again, possibly, in the section final game, we can see how we’ve improved.”
Bradley said a key to this team’s success has been its depth. The team has had success with two goaltenders. Beattie has started more games and is off to an 11-3 record. However, senior Trevor Lunde is 5-1 in the net. Beattie said the defense always seems to know the plan.
“It’s pretty easy back there,” Beattie said. “We all communicate well with each other and know what’s going on, makes it easy throughout the game.”
Eastview’s depth also extends to scoring goals. The Lightning’s top goal scorers entering the weekend were one goal apart from each other — Nate Bordson with 16 and Zach Anderson with 15.
Nunn was tied with Bordson for the team lead in assists; each had tallied 20. Anderson was close behind with 16.
Nunn also was in attendance for the 2013 state tournament. He watched that game with Noah Desrocher and Chris Fan, two teammates on the varsity squad this season. Now, Nunn and his team are hoping to go back.
“That’s been our ultimate goal for the past two years,” Nunn said.
Jack White is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.