Grace Kuipers

Eden Prairie forward Grace Kuipers (9) goes for the tip in front of the net on her way to a hat trick in a win over Brainerd/Little Falls. (Photo by John Sherman)

An early-season girls hockey ratings battle attracted a big crowd Nov. 14 at Eden Prairie Community Center, and the home fans went home happy with the eighth-ranked Eagles’ 4-3 overtime win over Brainerd/Little Falls.

Jaime Grossman, head coach of the Eagles, knew it would take a great effort to win. “Brainerd/Little Falls is a very physical team,” he said. “And they play with a lot of toughness and grit.”

Eden Prairie matched that grit with some determination of its own, while relying on two standout forwards for scoring. Junior Grace Kuipers recorded a hat trick and scored the winning goal in the second minute of overtime. Senior Sydney Langseth, one of the leading contenders for the Ms. Hockey of Minnesota title, scored the Eagles’ first goal and assisted on all three of Kuipers’ goals.

“Sydney was sick last week and also had a bad back,” Grossman said. “She was probably at about 50 percent. Sydney is usually the best player on the ice. She is in control and very hard to stop.”

As for Kuipers, Grossman said, “Grace understands the game so well. She knows how to find space. Her goal in overtime was a great goal. She put the puck right over the goalie’s [leg] pad and under her glove.”

While the win over Brainerd/Little Falls was huge, it was matched two nights later when the Eagles defeated Hill-Murray 3-1 at historic Aldrich Arena in St. Paul.

“Our goalie, Molly Goergen played her best game of the season so far,” Grossman noted. “Molly is so even-keel. She had huge saves against Hill-Murray.” In all, Goergen saved 23 of 24 Pioneer shots.

In her first varsity season last winter, Goergen replaced the legend, Alexa Dobchuk, a four-year starting goalie for the Eagles.

“For Molly to make All-Lake Conference in her first season was impressive,” Grossman said.

Each team scored a goal in the first period Saturday night. Carrie Byrnes gave EP a 1-0 lead with Langseth and Grace Kuipers assisting, and then Nina Steingauf scored for the Pioneers.

EP took the lead in the third period when Grace Kuipers scored from Anna Brown, then Langseth increased the margin to two goals when Nora Wagner assisted her on a short-handed goal.

It was a fast-skating, cleanly-played hockey game, with Eden Prairie taking only two penalties and Hill-Murray taking none.

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