Class 2A state girls hockey semifinals: Edina 4, Minnetonka 0

Edina entered Thursday’s Class 2A girls hockey semifinals at Xcel Energy Center having not played a game in 12 days.

The Hornets’ section final victory over Benilde-St. Margaret’s was played March 20. Their state quarterfinal game against Centennial was canceled after the Cougars recorded a positive COVID-19 test.

So while everyone else in the field played over the weekend, the Hornets sat idly.

The question entering the semifinals was, would Edina display any rust?

The answer: No.

Edina looked as sharp as ever from the opening faceoff, scoring 4 minutes and 35 seconds into the first period and never relinquishing control on its way to a convincing 4-0 victory over Lake Conference rival Minnetonka.

Hornets coach Sami Reber wasn’t surprised. She could tell from the quality of her team’s practices that the Hornets were ready. They were chomping at the bit to play Saturday. To keep the “competitive juices flowing,” Edina held one day of a big 5-on-5 scrimmage that included coaches, and a 3-on-3 tournament Saturday during what would’ve been the Hornets’ game slot.

“Trying to keep them motivated and pumped up and competitive as possible,” Reber said.

It worked.

Vivian Jungels fired a shot on net from the outside and Jane Kuehl’s extended stick caught a piece of the puck, redirecting it over the shoulder of Minnetonka netminder Brynn DuLac. That highlighted a first period in which Edina (21-0) outshot Minnetonka 11-3.

The second-seeded Hornets never considered taking their foot off the gas from there. Kuehl scored again to make it 2-0 just over midway through the second. Just more than a minute later, Emma Conner made it 3-0 Edina.

Conner scored her second goal of the contest in the third.

“Huge team effort from start to finish,” Reber said. “But it says a lot when … our leading scorers for the year show up in big games. I think that says a lot about our team. Because sometimes the pressure gets to some of these big names, but they treat it like any other game.”

Kuehl happened to be looking up at the jumbotron right as she was being recognized as the player of the game near the end of the contest. She immediately smiled and received plenty of love from her teammates.

Edina goaltender Uma Corniea prevented Minnetonka from ever cracking the crease. The sophomore, a Princeton commit, pitched a 15-save shutout. Edina outshot Minnetonka 33-15.

The third-seeded Skippers (16-4-3) gave Edina a couple tightly contested games during the regular season. The Hornets beat Minnetonka 3-2 on Feb. 2 and 3-0 in early March. But Minnetonka coach Tracy Cassano said while Edina looked poised and confident on the big stage, the Skippers played probably their worst game of the season at a bad time.

Cassano looked at her team on the bench and said it couldn’t keep sitting back. Because when you wait for bad things to happen, guess what’s going to happen?

“Bad things,” senior Skippers defender Rory Guilday correctly called out.

“If it weren’t for Brynn DuLac I think the score could’ve been even more different than it was,” Cassano said in an ode to her netminder, who tallied 29 saves. “We didn’t have our best game, and when you play a team like Edina, it’s going to show quickly.”

But while the performance was disappointing, Cassano noted that doesn’t define her team’s season.

“One loss does not define what we’ve accomplished together as a team,” she said. “I’m extremely proud of our kids.”

Edina will face top-seeded Andover in Saturday’s state final at 1 p.m. back at the X in a rematch of last year’s title game. That will mark the Hornets’ fifth straight title game appearance.

Edina won three straight championships from 2017-19, before Andover knocked off the Hornets 5-3.

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