For Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith, his team’s 3-2 quarterfinal victory against Lakeville South in three overtimes brought back memories of nerves and elation.
The last tournament game to go three overtimes was the 2011 championship tilt, with the Eagles outlasting Duluth East by the same 3-2 score.
Both times, Smith believed his team was moments from elimination.
In 2011, Smith stepped down from the bench in overtime as a Duluth East 3-on-1 rush entered the Eagles’ zone. The same sinking feeling overcame him Thursday.
“There was that scramble and the puck kicked way out to their defenseman,” Smith said. “And our goalie was down and everyone was scrambling and I thought, ‘I don’t feel good about this one,’ and I was about ready to go shake Janne’s hand.”
Janne Kivihalme is Lakeville South’s coach. The handshake didn’t happen until later.
Smith’s voice cracked as he said, “Somehow it didn’t go in.”
Emotions ran high on both sides. The eyes of Cougars goalie Henry Welsch glistened as he took questions about his 63-save performance — two short of tying the tournament record — which ended with Jack Jensen’s goal.
“I just wish we were on the other side of it,” Welsch said.
Jensen, a Mr. Hockey Award finalist, leads the Eagles with 35 goals. In 2011, eventual Mr. Hockey winner Kyle Rau was Eden Prairie’s main man and scored a diving goal in the third overtime.
Back then, Jensen played in Edina’s youth system.
“I was watching that game,” Jensen said. “Now to actually be at the tournament, on the same rink, it’s starting to hit you now.”
The game time of 83:03 exceeded the 2011 affair by about 2 ½ minutes. The state tournament’s longest game went five overtimes — lasting 93:12 — in 1996.
A Minnesota State High School League administrator told both coaches that if no winner was decided after three overtimes, the game would be suspended to let the evening games start as scheduled. The Eden Prairie-Lakeville South game would resume at 8 a.m. Friday.
Late in the third overtime, Smith sent out an only occasionally used forward combination of Jensen, John Mittelstadt and Spencer Rudrud.
“It was the right time to try it with a minute left because if we didn’t score there, it was going to be ‘come back tomorrow,’ ” Smith said.
“We were all exhausted,” Jensen said, “it was just ‘Who’s going to get the bounce here?’ ”
Jensen found a soft spot in the Lakeville South zone and correctly anticipated a Mittelstadt pass. That left just one final task.
“I thought, ‘I’ve got to bury this,’ ” Jensen said.