ST. PAUL, Minn. – Four months ago, Eden Prairie senior Kyle Rau wasn’t even sure if he was going to play high school hockey this season. The University of Minnesota recruit was set to play for Sioux Falls of the USHL, but at the last possible moment – the day the season started – Rau chose to finish his prep career.
Apparently, he made the right decision.
Rau scored 4:43 into the third overtime of the Minnesota Class AA championship game to lift Eden Prairie to a 3-2 win over Duluth East in front of 15,078 at Xcel Energy Center, capping the longest title game in the history of the 67-year tournament.
It was the first big-school championship game to go to overtime since 1989 when Bloomington Jefferson defeated Rochester John Marshall, and the first game to extend past the initial extra frame since 1978, when Edina beat Grand Rapids.
With a fourth overtime beginning to look more and more likely, Curt Rau, Kyle’s twin brother, took a hard slapshot from the left point that squeezed between Hounds’ goalie JoJo Jeanetta’s arm and body. The puck sat in the crease, and as Duluth East defenseman Andrew Kerr attempted to clear it to the corner, Kyle dove and knocked the puck off the post, then Kerr’s skate and finally into the net.
“I was going to do whatever I could to hit the puck before Kerr did,” said Kyle, who wasn’t aware that his diving attempt went in off of Kerr until he was told in the postgame press conference.
The winning goal was maybe the first time all night that Rau had gotten the better of Kerr, a sophomore. Throughout the game, Kerr had kept Rau away from the net, given him little space to make plays and even knocked him on his back a few times.
“They kept coming after me,” Rau said with a large cut on his chin thanks to his battles with the Hounds’ pointmen. “I’ll be feeling it in the morning, but it’s still worth it. I’ll have a scar I’ll always remember.”
Duluth East jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Trevor Olson knocked home a beautiful cross-ice pass from linemate Jake Randolph on the power play at 3:31 of the second period.
Mark Rath answered for Eden Prairie early in the third, batting a loose puck in through a scrum to Jeanetta’s right. After Olson gave the Hounds another one-goal lead, Mark’s brother, David, collected a rebound in front and snuck it under a Duluth East player to tie the game with three minutes to play in regulation. From there, the stage was set for a physical, wide-open overtime marathon and Rau’s heroics.
“In the elements of high school hockey, it was probably one of the greatest games ever,” Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith said. “It was dull until it opened up, but from the second period on, it was a classic because of all the chances.”
The championship is the Eagles’ second in school history. The first came in 2009, when the Rau brothers and the rest of the talent-laden Eden Prairie senior class were sophomores that played key roles on a team led by current-NHLer Nick Leddy.
For Duluth East, one of Minnesota’s most-storied high school programs, it was the fourth time they have finished second in the state, but they won’t soon be forgotten.
“You couldn’t ask for more from a team,” Hounds’ coach Mike Randolph said. “They battled, battled and never quit. That’s all you can ask, that your kids lay it all on the line.”
“When [Eden Prairie] looks back in time, they’ll remember that Duluth East gave them a run.”
– Total attendance for the tournament was 112,474, the smallest paid attendance since 2002.
– Final shots on goal were 31-30 in Duluth East’s favor.
– The All-Tournament team includes the following players: Brandon Wahlin (F, White Bear Lake), Charlie Lindgren (G, Lakeville North), Nick Kuchera (F, Eagan), Will Merchant (F, Eagan), Dom Toninato (F, Duluth East), Jake Randolph (F, Duluth East), Nate Repensky (D, Duluth East), Hunter Bergerson (D, Duluth East), Kyle Rau (F, Eden Prairie), Nick Seeler (D, Eden Prairie), Dan Molenaar (D, Eden Prairie) and Andrew Ford (G, Eden Prairie).