ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In a semifinal thriller between No. 2 Lakeville North and No. 3 Eden Prairie, Panthers’ junior Nick Poehling played hero in double overtime to send his team past the Eagles, 5-4, and into the Class AA state title game.
Poehling, a St. Cloud State commit, hammered home a shot from the right circle on the power play, his second goal of the night, to advance Lakeville North to its first title game appearance. It’s the first appearance for a Section 1AA champion since John Marshall did so in 1989.
"I was just trying to get the puck on net. That’s what you do in overtime," Poehling said. "In overtime any shot can go in and that one did."
Both teams put high-powered offenses on display early in the contest, scoring a combined eight goals in the first two periods, beginning with a first frame that saw five goals scored on just nine shots.
The teams went back and forth in the high-flying first period, with Eden Prairie taking a 3-2 lead into the intermission on the back of two goals from Nebraska-Omaha commit and Mr. Hockey finalist Steve Spinner.
After the Eagles extended their lead to 4-2 early in the second, Lakeville North came roaring back late, scoring twice, one minute apart, in the final 1:35 of the period. Poehling’s first of the game, off of a big rebound, tied the score with 35 seconds to go in the period.
"We knew we had it in us to comeback and that’s what happened," Poehling said. "After the first period, we came out and just tried to play our hockey and that’s what we did."
After combining for eight goals in the game’s first 34 minutes, the offenses went silent through the third period and first overtime.
Both teams then got opportunities with the man advantage in the second sudden death period, but it was Lakeville North that made its chance count when a deflection found Poehling’s stick.
"For Lakeville North right now, every step we take forward is a first," Panthers head coach Trent Eigner said. "It takes a special group of kids to forge a new path and these kids are doing it. To say it’s exciting is an understatement."
The Panthers’ win as a family effort, as Lakeville North’s three Poehling brothers, Nick, junior Jack and freshman Ryan -- all St. Cloud commits -- combined for five points (2+3) in the win.
Lakeville North will face the winner of the second semifinal -- No. 1 Edina vs. No. 5 Eagan -- in the state title game Saturday at 7 p.m.