Chris Bloom tried to sleep on the bus. However, his teammates who happened to be nearby were loud and fired up.
Bloom wasn’t going to get much shut-eye. And his teammates weren’t going to be toned down.
Less than 48 hours earlier, the Edina (Minn.) Junior Gold boys’ hockey team qualified for the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships by downing archrival Wayzata 3-2 in the Junior Gold A state title game. Oh, and the game needed seven overtimes to determine the winner. It stretched over two days. Yes, you read that correctly.
On Wednesday, the team boarded a bus and made the 10-hour trek to St. Louis for the national tournament.
Bloom, who scored the game-winning goal, and his teammates were still running on an adrenaline high following the unprecedented and exhausting victory to claim the state title.
“We couldn’t believe it, and it was definitely the longest and craziest game we’ve ever played,” Bloom said. “We just really wanted to get the game over with and get a goal and move onto nationals.”
Prior to the state tournament, both Edina and Wayzata accepted an invitation to play in the national tournament. Whichever team finished higher at states was going to take the spot.
“It’s going to be a real thrill,” Edina coach Bill Smith said. “The kids are all pumped. They’re in the back of the bus, and they can hardly sleep they’re so wound up tight and ready to go.”
This marks the first time a Minnesota team has played in the Toyota-USA Hockey High School National Championships.
“I guess it really hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s quite an honor,” Smith said. “We’ve had a lot of success from our team, and this is just kind of icing on the cake to go down there and see how we fare against these other teams around the country.”
Edina, a Minneapolis suburb whose teams have a rich history of success in Minnesota, led 1-0 in the Junior Gold state title game after two periods on Sunday. A power outage during the second intermission caused the players to sit around for two hours. The Plymouth Ice Center couldn’t get the power restarted, so the game was pushed back until Monday evening. In the third period, Wayzata scored two quick goals to take the lead, then Edina came back to tie the game at 2-2 on a goal by Michael Sarp with about four minutes remaining.
Neither team could score again in regulation, and the game went to overtime. Then to another overtime. And another. And another.
Was it ever going to end?
“It was just unreal,” Smith said. “The intensity hadn’t slowed down. In fact, the pace was picking up the deeper we got into the game. It was just unreal how both teams competed. The game could have gone either way. It was just a knock-down battle.”
With about four minutes left in the seventh overtime, Wayzata was whistled for a tripping penalty and Edina went on the power play.
Wayzata cleared its zone, and when Edina brought the puck back down the ice, it took just three quick passes to get the puck over to Bloom. The senior walked the puck in from the point to a face-off circle and ripped a one-timer. He beat the goalie top shelf on the short side.
“There were a few bodies in front of me, so I was aiming for there, but I didn’t actually see the puck go in,” Bloom said. “I only knew that we won when I got tackled by my teammates.”
“Then it was pandemonium,” Smith said. “The place just erupted.”
Colin Dunn earned the win in the net for Edina, corralling 25 saves.
Edina (36-8-1 this season) opened the national tournament on Thursday and notched a 4-1 victory over St. Rita (Chicago). Bloom scored a goal and JR Brauer tallied three points (one goal, two assists).
Smith is expecting to take on some great teams at nationals.
“We played Shattuck-St. Mary’s on and off over the years, and these teams are comparable to Shattuck,” Smith said, referring to the prep school based in Faribault, Minn. “We’re going to have to be on our A-game to survive.
“Minnesota is known as, ‘The State of Hockey,’ so we want to go down there and prove that we’re capable of playing with anybody.”
The Edina players are still riding high after winning state. That emotional boost could be just what the players need to have a successful run at nationals.
“I think they’ll take it up another notch after our state tournament,” Smith said. “Now we’re on a mission to see how we fare down here. We’re not traveling all this way to finish second.”