As Edina junior goaltender Maddie Dahl walked into the media room after the Hornets had earned a spot in the Class 2A state championship game Friday night, I said to her quietly, “That stick really IS magic.”
She whispered, “It is!”
Dahl had just finished her second shutout of the tournament as Edina beat Hill-Murray 2-0 to move into Saturday’s state championship game against Minnetonka. The stick we spoke of is a very special goalie stick, a gift that Maddie isn’t afraid to credit for her sterling performance at Xcel Energy Center.
In Thursday’s semifinals Dahl shut out Rosemount 6-0. There was undoubtedly a little magic at work, magic that began a couple hours before game time thanks to the generosity of injured Wild goaltender Josh Harding.
Harding is sidelined with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee, suffered during the preseason. So while the Wild are in California, he’s back here in Minnesota going through the rehab process. He was on the ice at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday morning when the Edina Hornets arrived at the arena for their opening game.
Some of the Hornets saw Harding from the concourse level, but Dahl was the only one to run down the stairs to reach ice level. “He’s my idol,” she told me Friday before Edina met Hill- Murray in the semifinals.
She isn’t afraid to admit that she had her face pressed up to the glass to watch Harding. As his workout ended, he began picking up pucks and gathering his equipment. Then he did something that Dahl certainly did not expect. He picked up one of his sticks and tossed it over the glass to her.
Did somebody say “stunned”?
“I was like, ‘Wow!’ I thought he was going to take it back,” Maddie said. “I got kind of nervous and I ran really fast up the stairs.”
Her teammates, having witnessed the tossing of the stick, met Maddie at the concourse level and gathered around the stick; an honest-to-goodness NHL goalie’s stick. Harding is lefthanded and Maddie is righthanded, but what the heck does that matter? It just means she is less likely to use it on the ice and break it or see some similar catastrophe take place.
The story, however, doesn’t end there. Maddie and her teammates went down to the locker room level, where Harding was standing outside the Wild locker room holding a bottle of water. He saw Maddie carrying the stick, gave her a fist bump and said to her, “Good luck.”
But, again there’s more. Maddie doesn’t know who did what, but somehow, someway, somebody had Harding autograph the stick when she was otherwise occupied before the game. All she knows is that before the game, Harding had autographed it. Plus, he came into the locker room and again told Maddie, “Good luck.”
He had written on the stick, “To Maddie. Good Luck!” He signed his name and his number, 37.
But wait. The story isn’t over. You know that Maddie shut out Rosemount, making 24 saves. When I asked her what she did with the stick after the game, she smiled. Then she told me this: she slept with it.
And it’s a pretty safe bet that she slept with it again Friday night.
Josh Harding, you are my idol, too.
MINNETONKA vs. COON RAPIDS
--Paige Baldwin and Carolyn Draayer each scored two goals to lead the Skippers into the state title game. Coon Rapids will meet Hill-Murray in Saturday's third-place game.
CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
--Saturday's 1A state championship game will be a matchup between two traditional powers South St. Paul and Warroad. The Packers edged Breck 1-0 on a third-period goal by Ali Chulla. Warroad defeated Eveleth-Gilbert 9-0. South St. Paul won state titles in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. Warroad is the defending state champion and finished second in 2006 and 2009.
--Quote of the Day: South St. Paul's Chulla was asked how she felt when the final second ticked off the clock in the Packers’ win over Breck. Her answer was in the form of two questions: “I don’t know? OMG?”
--Quote of the Day Part II: Warroad coach David Marvin to the media contingent, which apparently didn’t have enough questions: “You guys are dull this year.”
--Nice backstage scene: As Hill-Murray’s Hannah Brandt and Marissa Brandt left the postgame media session they crossed paths with Edina’s Dahl and Sami Reber, who were headed to meet the press. The players hugged each other.
--Breck goaltender Taylor Neisen accompanied Mustangs coach Lenny Vannelli to the interview room. Taylor was a little teary-eyed as she entered the room, but was soon smiling as she talked about the experience. Good for you, Taylor. (That's her in the photo.)
--Pep Band Song of the Day: South St. Paul’s version of “Hey Jude.”
--Mascot Update: The Eveleth-Gilbert Bears not only have cheerleaders, but they also brought a bear to the semifinals. Not a ferocious grizzly, but a friendly Teddy bear. And Sir Loin, the skating steer who leads the parade for South St. Paul, was on the ice firing up the Packers fans before the first game of the day.
--The large South St. Paul student contingest was dressed in “black out” mode, as opposed to all-white attire during Wednesday’s quarterfinals. Very nice planning and execution, young Packers.
--Update on Celebrity Sighting from earlier in the week: Attorney/baseball expert Clark Griffith is the father of Breck senior Caroline Griffith.
--Milestone Moment: Shortly after 3 p.m. Friday, the MSHSL Facebook page reached a very nice plateau of 2,000 friends. If you want to see photo galleries -- including behind-the-scenes photos -- from the tournament, head on over to Facebook and join us.
--Diet Coke Count: Four for the day, 12 for the tournament.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,174
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn