Stellar goaltending and clutch scoring has made the Eastview boys' hockey team one to watch.
After a 5-5 start, the Lightning has gone 7-2-1 after beating Apple Valley 4-3 on Tuesday. High school hockey fans first did a double-take when Eastview defeated Eagan 4-2 on Jan. 12, when sophomore netminder Zach Driscoll stopped a whopping 64 shots from the high-powered Wildcats, ranked seventh in Class 2A.
"You have to have a goal-robber," Lightning coach Drey Bradley said. "He made a lot of saves in that game to keep us in it."
And they weren't just easy saves.
"Eagan has some great players and they came after us,'' Bradley said. "He was having a night. He was locked in and he did a great job."
The Lightning's Ryan McNamara scored two goals and had an assist. Mitch Beattie had a goal and an assist while Jake McGlocklin tallied the game-winner.
Eastview's following opponent was No. 12 Prior Lake. And Driscoll, once again, was special.
"He's just turned it on the last couple games," McNamara said of his goalie.
The sophomore stopped all 30 of the Lakers' shots in a 1-0 shutout. Nick Abbott scored the overtime game-winner and the Lightning oozed with new-found confidence.
Driscoll earned an opportunity to start at midseason. And it's become hard to sit a goalie who's playing the way he is.
"You have to ride that guy," Bradley said of Driscoll, who has a .943 save rate and 1.82 goals-against average. "He's playing well."
Senior goaltender Matt Montgomery is no slouch, either. He has a .904 save percentage and 2.38 goals-against average.
Eastview's leading scorer is McNamara, a Division I lacrosse recruit who brings his field skills to the ice. Lacrosse and hockey both demand hand-eye coordination, stick work, speed and quickness. McNamara, who has 14 goals and 11 assists, possesses all of those qualities.
"He's used to guys laying the lumber on him," Bradley said. "In lacrosse they get to pound on you, so that doesn't really phase him when guys are hooking him and chopping him. He just plays right through it and goes."
Said McNamara, "I don't really feel them anymore. I'm so used to it."
McNamara plays with longtime ice mates Abbott and McGlocklin on the first line. Abbott has notched seven goals and 11 assists. McGlocklin has 10 goals and six assists.
"I've been playing with Nick and Jake since I was 10 years old," McNamara said. "We've always been on the same teams playing together on the same line. We've always done well together."
Beattie and Pierce Erickson lead the Lightning blue line. Beattie has three goals and 15 assists, Erickson two goals and eight assists.
"They really play defense together well," Bradley said. "They do a great job of shutting down whoever is on the ice. We get production from them and that's a big bonus."
Eastview is not in the running for a South Suburban Conference championship. But if the Lightning continues to get strong goaltending and key goals while improving every game, the team could be poised to pull an upset or two once the section playoffs begin.
"We can play with them," Bradley said. "Now how do you find a way to beat them?"