The best girls' hockey team to miss the state tournament this season is a distinction No. 1 Edina and No. 2 Blake fought to avoid through 51 minutes of fierce section final play.
A rare battle of girls' hockey defending state champions, a game graced by a combined 14 players with Division I college commitments, did not disappoint — even though one deserving team had to lose.
Third-period goals from Emily Oden and Annie Kuehl put the top-ranked Hornets ahead to stay in a 4-2 victory over Blake on Friday night at Parade Ice Garden in the Class 2A, Section 6 final. The Bears, a stalwart program, won the Class 1A title a year ago before moving up to Class 2A this season.
"Blake is a very hardworking and skilled team, and to be able to beat them is huge," said Oden, one of a combined 10 players in either lineup who call Edina home.
Blake (24-2-2) led 2-1 as the second period waned. But Edina (25-2-1) found just enough time for a little magic. A late Hornets shot forced Bears goalie Anna Kruesel to freeze the puck. Edina's Lolita Fidler won the ensuing draw but the puck designed for Oden ended up with Aliyah Lance. No matter. Lance scored with three-tenths of a second left and sent the teams into the second intermission tied 2-2.
"It took a good bounce," Oden said with a laugh.
Blake players and coaches kept the mood jovial in locker room, too, knowing the goal was part of the ebb and flow of a big game. Early in the third period, the Bears got serious. Izzy Daniel corralled a turnover just inside the Edina blue line and dashed for the net.
Quick-thinking goalie Megan Smith came well out of her crease, cut the angle and forced the shot wide.
"I bet Izzy had nothing to shoot at," Blake coach Shawn Reid said. "Their goalie was so aggressive, which was the right play for her."
Smith kept the momentum with Edina, which got goals from Oden and Kuehl just 1:24 apart.
"That is the save of the game, for sure," Edina coach Sami Reber said. "Megan has been rock-solid for us the past few months."
Edina won 5-2 at Blake on Jan. 20 and with Friday's victory, pushed its winning streak to 11.