Eden Prairie escaped Braemar Arena with a victory on Saturday, but the Eagles hardly emerged unscathed.
An ugly, game-ending brawl that punctuated top-seeded Eden Prairie's 1-0 victory over No. 4 seed Benilde-St. Margaret's in a Class 2A, Section 2 semifinal led to the disqualification of three top Eagles players from Wednesday's section title game against second-seeded Minnetonka.
Two nights after a similar game-ending melee between Bloomington Jefferson and Holy Angels in a Class 2A, Section 2 quarterfinal resulted in no penalties, much less game disqualifications, Eden Prairie learned first-line wing Marc Sullivan, second-line wing Riley Argetsinger and top-four defenseman Louie Roehl all must sit out Wednesday's game against the Skippers because of their roles in the brawl. A combined 18 penalties were assessed to eight players (four on each team).
And just like that the joy of victory turns into, well …
"This changes everything," Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said. "We have to change our line combinations, we've got to shuffle our power play, we've got to shuffle our penalty kill."
After clearing the ice, game officials spent more than an hour conferring on what penalties to assign to which players. Smith didn't disagree with the disqualification calls on Sullivan and Argetsinger, both seniors. He said Roehl, however, had jumped out on the ice to celebrate the victory, not to participate in the fight. There were 0.6 seconds on the clock when the mayhem ensued.
Video captured by fans shows Argetsinger, who scored the game's lone goal in the second period off a rebound of a Casey Mittelstadt shot, throwing punches with the Red Knights' Mark Kaske. Kaske and Sullivan, who plays on the Eagles' top power-play unit, received two-minute penalties for leaving the penalty box early, five-minute majors for fighting and game disqualifications.
"A lot of emotion out there," Argetsinger said just minutes after the game and before the disqualifications had been handed down.
Eden Prairie junior goaltender Shaun Durocher left his crease area and headed to the corner during the early stages of the melee. He was issued a five-minute major for head contact.
"There was a lot of stuff going on in the corner that you couldn't really see," Durocher said. "After I went in the corner, then it really got pretty vicious. I like to fight and stuff like that. I think it's a big part of the game."
Eden Prairie assistant Steve Olinger, who previously served as the head coach at Chaska and has been involved in high school hockey for almost 20 years, said neither he nor Smith, in his 22nd season, could remember a similar incident involving players fighting in the postseason and missing subsequent games.
"The good thing that comes out of this is that teams get the message that if something happens at the end of the game you risk not playing in the next playoff game," Olinger said.