Ultimate playoff team battles at state

Sports Editor

Trojans post 4-2-0 record in postseason

If there’s one thing the Wayzata High boys hockey team proved this winter, it’s that regular-season results have nothing to do with postseason success.

After battling through a 7-17-1 regular season that included a 2-6-0 mark in the Lake Conference, the Trojans got hot at the right time and finished 4-2-0 in six postseason games.

Wayzata boys hockey forward Colin Schmidt (3) is tripped up by Maple Grove’s Jayden Walsh, but still manages to slide this game-tying goal into the Crimson net March 10 at Mariucci Arena. The Trojans won a 2-1 decision in overtime. (Sun Sailor staff photo by John Sherman)
Wayzata boys hockey forward Colin Schmidt (3) is tripped up by Maple Grove’s Jayden Walsh, but still manages to slide this game-tying goal into the Crimson net March 10 at Mariucci Arena. The Trojans won a 2-1 decision in overtime. (Sun Sailor staff photo by John Sherman)

Pat O’Leary, who coached Wayzata to state for the third time, had this message before his team entered the section playoffs: “Everybody is 0-0 now.”

The message resonated with the senior class, which led Wayzata past Edina 3-1 in the Section 6AA finals. That win over the second-ranked Hornets definitely gave the Trojans momentum for their first-round state game against No. 1-ranked Eden Prairie.

Pat O’Leary, head coach of the Wayzata Trojans calls for a line change against Eden Prairie as Trojan forwards Tristan Nelko (17) and Tommy Leisen (18) await their next turn. (Photo by Mark Trockman - trockstock.com)
Pat O’Leary, head coach of the Wayzata Trojans calls for a line change against Eden Prairie as Trojan forwards Tristan Nelko (17) and Tommy Leisen (18) await their next turn. (Photo by Mark Trockman – trockstock.com)

Although the odds were against Wayzata in the first-round matchup at Xcel Energy Center, 19.000 fans watched the Trojans take a 1-0 lead into the third period. Eden Prairie eventually won 3-1 by tacking on an empty-net goal at the end, but the Eagles fully realized how tough a game it had been.

Wayzata came back at noon the next day and played Maple Grove in the consolation semifinals at Mariucci Arena.

Goaltender Reid Waszczenko shows his mettle on this save before the Trojans rally to beat Maple Grove 2-1 in state consolation play March 10 at Mariucci Arena. (Sun Sailor staff photo by John Sherman)
Goaltender Reid Waszczenko shows his mettle on this save before the Trojans rally to beat Maple Grove 2-1 in state consolation play March 10 at Mariucci Arena. (Sun Sailor staff photo by John Sherman)

“We were super unsatisfied with the result of the Eden Prairie game,” said Wayzata junior forward Colin Schmidt. “We came out hungry against Maple Grove.”

The Crimson led 1-0 going into the third period before Schmidt satisfied some of his “hunger” by scoring the game-tying goal. Junior forward Griffin Ness initiated the play by passing to Schmidt, who then worked a give-and-go play with senior captain Tyler Stevens.

Wayzata senior defenseman Collin Kubinski (8) loses his helmet after this collision with Eden Prairie’s Ryan Lesko (19) during the State Class AA Boys Hockey Tournament quarterfinals March 9 at Xcel Energy Center. (Photo by Mark Trockman - trockstock.com)
Wayzata senior defenseman Collin Kubinski (8) loses his helmet after this collision with Eden Prairie’s Ryan Lesko (19) during the State Class AA Boys Hockey Tournament quarterfinals March 9 at Xcel Energy Center. (Photo by Mark Trockman – trockstock.com)

With about 45 seconds remaining in regulation time, Wayzata goalie Reid Waszczenko made two huge stops to keep the score even.

Late in the first overtime, senior forward Matt Cossette buried a rebound and a wild celebration ensued.

Wayzata’s Griffin Ness (22) and Eden Prairie’s Nolan Sullivan (12) are looking for a way to control a flying puck during Eden Prairie’s 3-1 victory March 9. (Photo by Mark Trockman - trockstock.com)
Wayzata’s Griffin Ness (22) and Eden Prairie’s Nolan Sullivan (12) are looking for a way to control a flying puck during Eden Prairie’s 3-1 victory March 9. (Photo by Mark Trockman – trockstock.com)

“We played our hearts out,” said Cossette after the game. “I have never scored a goal as big as this one. Winning is the best … it means putting on the Wayzata jersey one more time.”

“Going into the overtime today, I knew we’d keep working hard,” said O’Leary. “I had a feeling that one of our seniors would score the game-winning goal.”

Wayzata was hoping for more heroics in the State Class AA Tournament consolation title game March 11, but victory wasn’t in the cards. St. Thomas Academy, the second seed in the tournament behind Eden Prairie, defeated the Trojans 5-0.

Waszczenko was again outstanding with 26 saves, but the Trojans didn’t have much luck at the other end of the ice. Willie Reim scored two goals for the Cadets.

How did the Trojans manage the turnabout in the postseason?

“We kept our level of confidence up,” said Waszczenko. “We believed we were going to win.”

The Trojans’ final record of 11-19-1 does not reflect how rewarding the season has been. Years from now, when members of the 2016-17 team look in the State Tournament program, they’ll see themselves listed among the qualifiers for 2017. It’s something they’ll be proud of forever.

Contact John Sherman at [email protected]