Wayzata goalie puts the team on his back

Sports Editor

Waszczenko has made it happen

Wayzata High boys hockey coach Pat O’Leary can’t find enough superlatives to describe the way his senior goalie, Ryan Waszczenko, performed throughout the section and state tournaments.

So O’Leary will let the statistics speak for themselves. In Section 6AA Tournament play, Waszczenko’s goaltending was air-tight in back-to-back 4-0 victories over Armstrong/Cooper and Cretin-Derham Hall. Then, he bagged the elephant by leading his team to a 3-1 win over heavily favored Edina in the section finals.

Wayzata hockey goalie Reid Waszczenko stops Eden Prairie’s Nolan Sullivan on the doorstep before the Eagles rally for a 3-1 victory in the State Class AA Tournament quarterfinals March 9 at Xcel Energy Center. (Photo by Mark Trockman - trockstock.com)
Wayzata hockey goalie Reid Waszczenko stops Eden Prairie’s Nolan Sullivan on the doorstep before the Eagles rally for a 3-1 victory in the State Class AA Tournament quarterfinals March 9 at Xcel Energy Center. (Photo by Mark Trockman – trockstock.com)

In the Trojans’ state opener against the state’s No. 1-ranked Class AA team, Eden Prairie, it looked as if Waszczenko would match the heroics of his victory over Edina. But the Eagles reached deep and dominated the latter half of the third period in a 3-1 win. Two of Eden Prairie’s goals came with Waszczenko in the net. The other was an empty-net shot at the end.

Waszczenko stopped 35 of 37 shots on goal, and the Eagles came up empty until the 10:31 mark of the third period, when Noah Deraney scored. Nicky Leivermann, Eden Prairie’s All-State defenseman, scored the game-winner before Nolan Sullivan hit the empty net to clinch the Eagles’ win.

Coach O’Leary talked about how Waszczenko’s goaltending has affected morale at Wayzata High.

“He rallied a team and a school behind him,” the coach observed. “That’s so cool. Reid has earned it.”

On the eve of the Section 6AA Tournament, Wayzata was looking for any sort of positive sign. The team’s 7-17-1 record was beset by close losses to the upper-echelon squads in the Lake Conference, such as Eden Prairie, Edina and Minnetonka. The Trojans went 0-6-0 against those teams during the conference portion of the season.

Waszczenko is a quiet guy, who blushes at all of the fanfare and accolades he has received lately.

“I try to lead by example and keep our team in the game,” he said.

His approach to the game?

“I just go out there and try to block shots,” he said.

As a follow-up to his great performance against Eden Prairie, Waszczenko came back the next afternoon at Mariucci Arena and helped the Trojans edge Maple Grove 2-1 in overtime.

With 40 seconds left in the third period, and the score tied 1-1, Maple Grove had a golden opportunity to win the game. With any one else in Wayzata’s goal, they might have.

Waszczenko stopped a slapshot from the point with his pad and then rebuffed a rebound shot with his chest.

When teammate Matt Cossette scored in overtime, Waszczenko had the fourth victory in five starts during his impressive playoff run.

Waszczenko doesn’t make a big deal of the fact that he’s Wayzata High’s Hobey Baker Award winner for the 2016-17 season. The Hobey Baker goes to one player on each high school team in the state, who embodies the qualities of the first great American-born hockey player, Hobey Baker.

“That’s pretty special,” said Waszczenko. “I just come out every day and work hard.”

“Reid was alternating the first part of the season,” said coach O’Leary. “He’s such a resilient kid. What he has showed this season will take him a long way in life.”

“Reid is the best goalie in the state,” said Cossette, a teammate who has always believed Waszczenko will get the job done.

Contact John Sherman at john.sherman@ecm-inc.com