Scoring goals hasn’t been a problem for Edina, which is averaging six per game in the young season.
No, the scoring is the easy part. It’s the post-goal celebrations that have been decidedly awkward for the Hornets (2-0).
Say, for example, junior Matt Vander Vort scores a goal, or three, as he did Saturday night in Edina’s 6-2 victory against Wayzata in the championship game of the Wayzata Turkey Trot at the Plymouth Ice Center.
Now what is he supposed to do?
Sure, he can raise his arms and hug his teammates, but hockey’s standard, fist-bumping, post-goal flybys past the benches are off limits to the Hornets, per the orders of Curt Giles.
Giles, in his 23rd season coaching Edina, has witnessed far too many shenanigans and heard an earful of unpleasantries when celebrating teams skate past the opposing bench to get to their own.
“I've watched our kids go by their bench and give them disrespect,” he said. “I've watched other kids come by our bench and give us disrespect. So I said, ‘You know what, we're not going by their bench. We don't need to interact with their bench. We just need to take care of ourselves.'
“Score a goal, and then get back to work.”
So that’s what Vander Vort did. He scored his three goals in a span of 4 minutes, 14 seconds to end the third period. His first put the Hornets ahead 4-2 with 5:55 remaining. His second came 2:27 later. And his third 1:37 after that.
To break it down, Vander Vort took a shift and scored, took a quick breather then hopped on the ice and scored again. Repeat those steps one more time and you get the first career hat trick for the speed merchant who scored twice and added three assists all of last season as a sophomore making his varsity debut.
On Saturday it was three shifts, three goals, zero glove-waving sprints past the Hornets bench. Still, out of years of habit, the Hornets are naturally drawn to their bench after goals. Vander Vort resisted the urge and kept the celebrations mostly out of harm’s way.
“Yeah, it definitely took some some getting used to it at first,” Vander Vort said about the change in celebration rituals. “But now I think we’ve kind of got it down.”
The 6-foot, 168-pound Vander Vort played in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this fall, when he turned in a strong postseason by scoring twice and adding three assists in three league playoff games.
“He’ a big kid who can really move,” Giles said. “I mean, he’s fast. He can cause you problems just by using the speed.”
Vander Vort’s game-ending flurry Saturday was similar to the Hornets’ third-period eruption in Friday's come-from-behind tournament semifinal win over Maple Grove. The Hornets rallied from a 5-2 deficit with three goals in the final 4:08 of regulation in a 6-5 overtime triumph over the Crimson.
“Obviously, we would like to not have to necessarily have to rely on a super good third period all the time,” Vander Vort said. “We want to play good all three periods. But yeah, it is definitely a good thing that we can finish out the third strong.”