Gone green: Edina surges to its 14th boys hockey championship

Edina boys hockey coach Curt Giles said he was feeling his age, which is why he wore a ballcap — backward — after Edina's 2-1 victory in the Class 2A state tournament championship game Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.

"I'm trying something new," Giles said. "You get to be a certain age, after a while you have to try and fit in."

The white hat, with "State Champions" embroidered on the right side, is nowhere near as famous as the houndstooth hat worn by Edina's legendary coach Willard Ikola. In fact, it's likely Saturday will be the last time Giles sports his new lid. What will remain, however, are the memories of the program's 14th state tournament championship run.

"This group of kids that we had this year," Giles said, "were the easiest group we've ever had to get prepared to play a hockey game. They had a desire, and we could tell they wanted to win this very, very badly."

Edina senior forward Jackson Nevers, a Mr. Hockey award finalist and a veteran of last season's championship game loss to Minnetonka, said, "We weren't going down without a fight."

Through the better part of two periods, second-seeded Chanhassen (25-6) took the fight to Edina (26-4-1). Starting when senior Tyler Smith redirected a puck shot by Ben Curtis for the game's opening goal at 10:10 of period two, the Storm kept up the pressure, outshooting Edina 14-5 for the period. But the Storm managed only one goal despite dominating the second period.

"What you're really hoping as a coach is, if we can just get out of this period just being down by one after a push like they had, then we can regroup and try to move along," Giles said. "Then it's only one shot."

Edina's "Robbie and Bobby" show scored the next two goals. Junior defenseman Robbie Hoch's shot from the point beat goaltender Kam Hendrickson clean at 3:12 of the third period. Tie game.

The Hornets took a 2-1 lead as senior forward Bobby Cowan scored on the power play at 10:05 of the third period — with a blistering shot already etched in Giles' memory.

"That shot, from that spot, to beat a quality goaltender like that — it's hard to find a kid that can shoot like that," Giles said.

Third-year Chanhassen coach Sean Bloomfield described Edina's third-period turnaround as a car crash, one he could see coming but was powerless to stop.

"They came out hard; we knew they would push," Bloomfield said.

From there, Hornets senior goalie Joe Bertram kept the Storm from forcing overtime. For the game, Chanhassen outshot Edina 34-23.

"With them putting pressure on, I wasn't looking at the clock too much," Bertram said. "I was just worrying about the puck."

Chanhassen came up a little short of ending a breakthrough season in the best way possible. The Storm weren't even supposed to have made it this far considering defending state champion and undefeated Minnetonka overshadowed them in Section 2 and blotted out much of the high school landscape.

Bloomfield praised the resiliency of his senior-laden group for being "a bounce away from winning tonight, or at least tying it up. There are a lot of emotions. They love each other, and it's the end of the road."

The game's three stars

Bobby Cowan, Edina forward: Scored a go-ahead goal only 11 seconds into a power play in the third period with a shot from the top of the circle.

Robbie Hoch, Edina defenseman: Tied the game early in the third period with his third goal of the season.

Tyler Smith, Chanhassen forward: Broke a scoreless tie by tipping a shot right in front of the net for his 14th goal of the season and third of the tournament.

The game's key numbers

1: Power-play goal for Edina, which turned out to be the game-winner.

24 Goals this season for Edina's Bobby Cowan, which led his team. Seven of his goals, including the winner on Saturday, came on the power play.

2-1: The final score in back-to-back Class 2A state championship games.