He wheeled around two defenders, veered toward the boards, met resistance and nudged the puck toward open ice, where he gathered it before driving to the net.
Ben Steeves then split a defender and the goalie, went airborne, and tucked the puck into the goal while horizontal.
Steeves, a forward for Eden Prairie and a finalist for the Minnesota Mr. Hockey award, looked like he was mimicking Mikael Granlund’s spectacular goal that beat the Colorado Avalanche in the 2014 NHL playoffs.
But he wasn’t. Steeves is a senior at Eden Prairie but was living in New Hampshire when Granlund scored that goal. Born in Minnesota, Steeves lived most of his life in on the East Coast before spending his junior season in Michigan.
Now he’s a prep star headed to Minnesota Duluth, and the state semifinals, after Eden Prairie’s 4-0 victory over Lakeville South on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. Steeves’ NHL reference point Thursday was not an old Wild highlight but a video he watched at a state tournament banquet.
Asked if accounts of the grandeur of the Minnesota state hockey tourney were exaggerated, Steeves said, “There is no exaggeration. During the banquet, one of the videos that was made was asking NHL players about what they love about the state tournament, and they went on and on and on, listing things. And they were asked one question, and they just kept going on and on and on.
“That just shows how much they care about it. So I knew it would be a blast. And it’s not over yet and we just have to keep winning.’’
Eden Prairie will face Blake on Friday in the Class 2A semifinals, and that game promises to be the kind of end-to-end affair ideal for Steeves’ freewheeling style. He scored two goals and produced an assist against Lakeville South, making the puck look like it was velcroed to his stick.
“He’s an unbelievably talented skater, shooter, passer, great teammate and wonderful leader in the locker room,’’ Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said. “He comes in and makes a mark by being a great person. Leads by example. He’s the first guy on the ice every day working at his game. Loves the game. UMD is lucky to have him. They got a steal. [UMD coach Scott] Sandelin knows what he’s doing.
“Power play — he’s wonderful there. Great [penalty] killer. And both of these guys I have up here are unbelievable seniors.’’
Steeves sat to Smith’s right. Kai Stansberry sat to Smith’s left. Steeves had already checked his phone, to see friends from other states commenting and sharing Snapchats about the game. Steeves was still digesting the experience of playing for a state title at the X.
“It’s just crazy, the lights in there,’’ he said. “Going out for warmups, your eyes have to adjust. It’s so bright in there, you have to watch the puck, to see how it bounces. And the boards are really bouncy, so you have to really read the boards and read the glass in warmups, to see how it flows.
“And with the band and student section, and playing front of the whole state, because it’s on TV.’’
Earlier, Blake coach Rob McClanahan, a member of the Miracle On Ice team, had spoken to the growth of the state tourney. McClanahan beat the Russians, but not Richfield, which defeated his Mounds View team in the quarterfinals in 1976 at the St. Paul Civic Center.
How has the tournament grown? “The social media thing is so huge now,’’ he said. “We didn’t have laptops when I was in it. We didn’t have cellphones. It was on TV and all that, but it’s just the best state tournament of any sport in the country. It’s just spectacular. I’m 62 years old, and I remember the day I played in the state tournament. These guys are going to remember this for the rest of their lives, without question.’’
Steeves and Smith would not disagree.
“Hopefully, it’s not a Miracle on Ice for them again,’’ Smith said. “Hopefully, it’s our time.’’