Last year’s boys hockey team was one goal/one shot/one shift away from winning a state championship.
This year’s team returns last year’s starting goalie (Axel Rosenlund), a pair of defensemen (Luke Mittelstadt and Kam Langfels) and four forwards (John Mittelstadt, Drew Holt, Carter Batchelder and Riko Brown).
Kai Stansberry was a forward on last year’s team. This year, he’s slated to play defense.
“We’ll get some help from a junior varsity team that finished first in the conference last year,” said Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith. “We’ll get more help from a really good Bantam AA team.
“Two kids moved in,” added Smith.
One of the move-ins is Mason Langenbrunner, a Harvard University commit.
“He was a defenseman at Cloquet last year,” said Smith. “They moved to Eden Prairie after his dad took a job with the Boston Bruins. They had to be closer to the airport.”
Langenbrunner’s father, Jamie, had an NHL career that spanned 18 years.
The Steeves family would also move to Eden Prairie.
“Ben (Steeves) was born in Minnesota,” said Smith. “They moved out East and now they’re back.”
Steeves is a senior forward.
Sophomore forward Jackson Blake grew up playing hockey in Eden Prairie. After spending the first half of last year at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, he returned to Eden Prairie.
Last spring, Blake played on Eden Prairie’s Bantam AA team. Last summer, he played on Team USA’s Under-17 Men’s Select Team (Team USA placed second at the 2019 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Füssen, Germany).
Expectations come with wearing Eden Prairie sweaters.
“We’re always someone who has a chance,” said Smith.
When you return as a state runner-up/section champion, expectations rise.
Add in a couple big-time move-ins and expectations go through the roof.
“We’ll be good,” said Smith.
How good depends on Eden Prairie.
“We still have to get around the rink,” said Smith. “We have to be unselfish and we have to take care of the puck.
“Puck management comes first,” he added. “That means we can’t be trying passes we don’t need to make. Turnovers will kill you.”
Eden Prairie could also use a little luck.
“Luck is part of it,” said Smith.
Smith’s early takeaway is that this year’s team can shoot.
“Last year’s team might take 35-40 shots and score three or four goals,” said Smith. “If this group gets 35-40 shots, they might score five or six goals.”
He said this and then pumped the breaks.
“This group likes scoring pretty goals,” he said, “but pretty goals can only take you so far. We need dirty goals, the kind you get by crashing the net.”
If ugly goals are good, ugly wins are better.
“Last year,” said Smith, “we learned from a lot of hard losses. This year, we’re hoping to learn from some ugly wins.
“You have to make adjustments,” he added. “If you don’t, you’re not getting better.”
Eden Prairie plays its season opener on Saturday with a 7 p.m. home game against Cretin-Derham Hall.