BLOOMINGTON - Robbie Clarkowski rolled into Bloomington Ice Garden early Wednesday evening with his green Edina Hornets bag slung over one shoulder and a chip the size of a regulation sized net resting on the other.
The senior goaltender and one of three Frank Brimsek Award finalists departed the rink with a much lighter load.
The 6-foot-6 Clarkowski, chip and all, was all but impossible to beat in Edina’s 2-1 Section 6AA championship game victory over No. 1 seed Wayzata.
It was sweet redemption for the No. 3-2A Hornets (20-6-1), especially Clarkowski, who suffered a 7-0 thrashing at Wayzata 11 days ago. On this night he made 29 saves and came 31 seconds from a shutout as the driving force behind Edina’s 41st state tournament berth.
“He’s a pretty incredible kid,” Edina coach Curt Giles said of Clarkowski. “We go into Wayzata and they pump seven past him, and now he comes in and does this … that’s a pretty mature kid.”
Clarkowski said the team didn’t talk about the previous meeting with Wayzata, but he wasn’t about to be on the losing end of another beatdown.
“We’ve had this in the back of our head ... it’s sat with us,” Clarkowski said. “We knew if we could see them again, it would be a different game.”
Clarkowski was at his best in the second and third periods when Wayzata maintained zone time by throwing up a metaphorical wall at the blueline.
Edina senior Matt Vander Vort opened the scoring just 1:19 into the game, then both sides settled in for an elongated battle of trench warfare. Time and space was scarce all night, as both teams closed gaps, worked busy sticks, played the body heavily and poured in all the fundamental ingredients necessary when playing to extend the season.
Wayzata’s scoring chances continued to increase as game wore on, but the No. 6-2A Trojans (19-7-2) couldn't convert despite their efforts to rattle Clarkowski with their exceptionally proficient net-crashing.
“He probably had a chip on his shoulder after last game, which, you know, good for him,” Wayzata coach Pat O’Leary said about Clarkowski. “He shut us down, and he was the difference in the game.”
Clarkowski came oh-so-close to what would have been his fifth shutout of the season, and he lowered his goals-against-average to 1.67 while improving his save percentage to .931.
Clarkowski has yet to commit to a college, but with an NHL-type frame, he continues to be noticed by college and NHL scouts alike.
“If he wants to stick around here, I’ll keep him for another five years,” Giles joked. “Good goaltending and good defense can take you a long way.”
BLOOMINGTON - Matt Vander Vort scored less than a minute-and-a-half into the first period, and Edina led the rest of the way en route to a 2-1 victory over Wayzata in the Section 6AA championship game Wednesday night at Bloomington Ice Garden.
The Hornets, No. 3 in the latest Legacy Hockey state Class 2A rankings, avenged a seven-goal blowout 11 days ago at the hands of Wayzata in the final game of the regular season. Edina advances to the Class 2A state tournament for the 41st time and second consecutive year.
Robby Clarkowski finished with 29 saves to steady Edina (20-6-1) through extended bouts of heavy pressure from No. 7-2A Wayzata (19-7-2).
With Wayzata goaltender Will Ingemann pulled for an extra attacker, Ryan Flaherty scored on a long-range empty netter with 1:13 left.
As fans began to head for the exits, Rhys Wallin scored for Wayzata with 31 seconds left on a scramble in front of the net to wipe away the pending shutout for Clarkowski.
Ingemann stopped 19 shots for the Trojans.