ASHBURN, Va. — You had to pretty much know this was coming: When Minnesota rivals Edina and Wayzata play, three periods just aren’t enough.
The Junior Gold A hockey teams have played in the last three state title games and those three games needed 14 overtimes – two in 2014, seven in 2015 and five this year. Even a matchup in an invitational tournament this season needed an overtime before ending with a shootout.
Wayzata’s A.J. Oare forced the overtime by scoring on the power play with 11.2 seconds remaining in regulation and then he put home a rebound for a 2-1 victory in the Pure Division championship game of the USA Hockey High School National Championships on Monday.
Pure Division teams are made up of players from a single school.
Edina had won the last two of those state title game meetings, but Wayzata will head home with the national title banner. The two teams’ home rinks are less than 10 miles apart.
“We would have loved to have won in front of our fans at home, but coming here, it was a good redemption to get back at Edina,” said Oare, a senior. “We played them pretty even all year. It means a lot for me to end the career that way.”
Oare almost didn’t get that chance. Dain Whaley scored for Edina at the 6:25 mark in the first period and it remained that way with much of the game being played between the blue lines.
A slashing penalty with 32 seconds remaining in regulation set the table for a final push for Wayzata, and it almost scored off the faceoff to the right of Edina goalie Colin Dunn. With the goaltender pulled and the power play, it created a rare 6 on 4 opportunity.
“We probably wouldn’t be having this conversation if that penalty hadn’t happened,” Wayzata coach Jonathan Lindahl said afterward. “We earned that penalty. We had a guy driving to the net and he got dragged down. We definitely deserved that penalty. It gave us some extra ice, an extra body when we needed it.”
While no assist was awarded on the goal, defenseman Dominick Bouta put Oare in position to score.
“It was a good pass from Dom,” Oare said. “I teed one up and it went in. We got a good bounce.”
That set up yet another overtime where Oare was the hero off a rebound from a Carter Fallen shot.
“Our line has been feeling it all weekend,” Oare said. “The guys made a great play. The rebound was sitting there and I just put it home.”
And if style makes fights, that has been the secret for the close battles between these two programs. Both teams play with finesse, like to move the puck and “bump and grind as it makes sense,” as Lindahl put it.
“We bring the best out of each other,” he said. “Generally, we play our best when we play them and I think they play their best when they play us. Very crisp, very clean games. You have to clean up your game against a team like that …
“We know what the other team is trying to do. That’s the reason these big, intense, important games go as long as they do. We know how to play them just as much as they know how to play us.”
Perhaps more significantly, this meant the title would be calling Minnesota home regardless of which team won. This is the first USA Hockey national high school title from the state in the seven years of the event.
Edina and Wayzata are both public school districts and have 13 hockey teams combined. Both have varsity, junior varsity, two Junior Gold A teams and a junior Gold B team. Edina has two Junior Gold 16 teams and Wayzata has one.
“This is obviously important for our program, but it’s also important for exposure to Minnesota hockey and the depth of hockey we have,” Lindahl said. “We’re proud of this level of hockey. It’s a bit of a hidden secret.”