Eden Prairie's Charly Dahlquist. (Photo by Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune)
Unbeaten through the season's first half, Eden Prairie's girls' hockey team came into Tuesday's game mired in an unhappy new year slump.
A 5-2 victory against Wayzata restored confidence to a concerned Eagles' team.
"We've been playing really well but we haven't been able to score," Eagles sophomore forward Angie Heppelmann said. "Or there's been 30 seconds where we didn't play well and they capitalized and scored."
It took less than 30 seconds for the Eagles to find their scoring touch against No. 8 Wayzata (12-8). Anna Johnson's goal 21 seconds into the game sparked an offensive revival. Heppelmann tallied a hat trick.
Both teams came into the Eden Prairie Community Center needing a victory. No. 4 Eden Prairie lost three of its past four games since beating two-time defending Class 2A champion Minnetonka and improving to 12-0-3.
Wayzata, which lost 2-1 in overtime to Eden Prairie on Dec. 15, lost its past three games, all against Lake Conference foes.
A lack of scoring was the common thread for both teams. Tuesday marked the sixth time in seven games Wayzata scored two or fewer goals. Eden Prairie had scored just one goal in three losses.
"We knew going into the season that the back half of the schedule was going to be tough," said McKenzie Johnson, the Eagles co-captain and goaltender. "We're just trying to get back on track by working hard and staying positive."
Johnson and Heppelmann gave Eden Prairie a 2-0 lead but Wayzata's Kaycie Palesch cut the lead to 2-1 later in the first period.
Eden Prairie led 3-1 after two periods thanks to Lauren Boyle's power-play goal.
Wayzata got a lift as Mara Dougherty cut the Eagles' lead to 3-2 at 7:18 of the third period.
"Our intensity picked up after we got the second goal," Trojans coach Becky Wacker said. But "it was too little too late."
Heppelmann countered with two goals, including an empty netter with 38.8 seconds to play, to clinch a key victory against a Section 6 opponent.
"We've been struggling against the teams in our conference and getting down on ourselves," Heppelmann said. "So winning this game against a good team is huge."