Five minutes on the clock, down three goals to a program with four section titles in five seasons, things looked bleak for a Chaska team making only its second ever section final appearance Feb. 26.
The fourth-seeded Hawks, with 10 seniors on its bench, weren't ready to let Eden Prairie skate off the ice at Mariucci Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota that easily.
Jimmy Snuggerud's rebound goal at 12:20 of the third period sparked Chaska. Calvin Barrett's tip-in shot with a 6-on-4 advantage with 1:43 remaining brought belief.
Shane LaVelle's two wrister in the closing seconds, one off a feed from Snuggerud on a desperation 4-on-3 rush, brought out "ahhs" from the remaining crowd.
In the end, Eden Prairie goaltender Axel Rosenlund made the final two saves, facing 13 shots to three for the Eagles in the third period, as the second seed advanced to the state tournament with a 3-2 win.
"They're so talented. They don't need too many shots to catch up. When you have Jimmy Snuggerud, LaValle, XYZ, you always have to protect. ... Here we go. They got momentum going and they play with a ton of pride. I knew it was going to be a great battle. Even in the third, we tried to tell the kids, this thing's not over," Eden Prairie head coach Lee Smith.
"In the great game of hockey, you don't know the final outcome. Our goal was to get a goal every five minutes and as the clock is winding down we had to make a decision when to pull the goaltender. You get pucks on net, we got the rebound goal we needed. All of sudden there was a little mojo change, Chaska coach Dave Snuggerud said.
"Give us another minute I think we have the third one," he added.
Snuggerud talked about the hockey gods after the game. They seemed to be on the Hawks' side in the semifinals, every deflection, every redirect in the defensive zone funneling away from the Chaska goal.
After the second period against Eden Prairie, three goals scored, the puck luck was against the Hawks.
Two in particular ways. The first in maybe the strangest way possible.
Scoreless midway through the second period, Drew Holt's wrister clanked iron. Which iron though? The initial call by the on-ice official was crossbar, play on. For a half-second, the goal judge official turned off the goal light, but quickly turned it off.
Play resumed for 88 more seconds before a whistle. Smith, under the belief that the call was going to stand, despite his objection, asked for the referees to converse. The goal judge joined in the penalty box, and after a lengthy discussion, Eden Prairie was awarded a goal.
"It sure looked in. The light was on and stuff. The play went on so long I didn't even know they'd go to him. When the whistle blew, my whole goal was to at least ask them to talk about it. I didn't know they'd call the guy all the way around the rink," Smith said.
After the period, the goal judge expressed he saw the puck under the crossbar, hit the back corner and bounce out. That was enough to overturn the goal.
Video replay, captured by KSTP-5, shows that was likely the case. The iron noise the center bar near the top of the cage.
"I've, in my 20 or so years of coaching, never seen anything like that, a reversal like that," Coach Snuggerud said. "The official had no goal. He said it hit the crossbar. He said it wasn't in, but the goal judge overruled me. I asked, if it's a goal, why did you turn the light off? There was no consistency out there."
What the goal did was give Eden Prairie momentum in an even game up to that point. It also added 88 seconds back to the period, the clock reverting back to the time of the original shot.
Following an Eden Prairie power-play goal -- another puck luck moment on a Jackson Blake shot from behind the net hitting the back of Chaska goaltender Carter Wishart and bouncing in -- the advantage grew to 3-0 with 58 seconds remaining.
The added time not only resulting in the first goal, but also the third, a 2-on-1 finish from John Mittelstadt off a pass from Ben Steeves.
Again, puck luck. Chaska had dynamite chance on the other, Max Burkholder's wrister from the slot saved by Rosenlund, the long carom finding Steeves for a quick transition odd-man rush.
"The big goal for us was the third one. The one that kind of it seemed like was going to put it in a good spot. It was an unbelievable save. Four (Burkholder), who we all talked about at the meeting being one of the best defenseman in the state, coming down the slot. It was a great save. ... Steeves makes a great play. Nine out of 10 times he shoots that. He gives it to Johnny and he's got a wide open net," Smith said.
Three goals seemed daunting against an Eden Prairie squad with plenty of Division I talent, and for the first 12 minutes of the third period the hill seemed to high to climb.
Out of a timeout, the face-off was won by Nick Olmscheid, a pass from Burkholder to Grant Magnuson set-up the first goal for Chaska. The shot bounced off the back wall right to Jimmy Snuggerud for the score.
With Wishart off, an extra skater in Barrett, again off a face-off, Eden Prairie unable to clear, Magnuson keeping possession, found Burkholder for the point blast. Barrett, camped in front, tipped the shot past Rosenlund to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Chaska was credited with three shots over the final 1:43, the second off the stick of LaVelle knocked down by Rosenlund's blocker. LaVelle nearly found Olmscheid in front of the net for a great look, the senior captain unable to get enough stick on the puck.
LaVelle's final shot with four seconds remaining was sticked away to the corner to preserve the 3-2 score.
"They rode their top two lines, we rose our top two lines. It was a battle of the top six, and our top six barely won," Smith said.
It was the first section championship appearance for Chaska since 1997, a loss to Hutchinson in the Section 6A final in St. Cloud.
Eden Prairie, which knocked out the Hawks from the post-season in the semifinals in 2019, beat Chaska 5-4 in overtime in a December meeting at Dakotah Arena in Prior Lake.
Wishart, making his 28th consecutive start in goal as a freshman, came up big throughout, keeping the game scoreless with a pair of acrobatic saves in the first period. He finished with 21 saves, keeping the scoresheet clean in the third-period rally.
Wishart, along with Snuggerud and Sam Rinzel, who missed a portion of the second period after taking a heavy check, returning for the final 17 minutes, all freshman, were true representatives of the growth the underclassmen group for Chaska made this season.
"I knew going into their freshman year, they needed games. They are competitors. They won as PeeWees at the state tournament. They went to the finals in Bantams last year. They know how to win. I just needed 12 games for Carter to get some experience and that's exactly what happen. Jimmy is a great competitor, and so is Max Burkholder. We had seven kids who never had played varsity hockey (before this season) tonight. This group was gamers," Coach Snuggerud said.