Eastview beat Eagan 4-1 on Thursday to win the Section 2AA championship and qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2001. Photo by Loren Nelson
The problem with Zach Driscoll is he practices the way he plays.
Which is to say Eastview’s sophomore goaltender would rather juggle flaming porcupines than allow a goal.
OK, so that’s not really a problem. But it’s true that shooting on Driscoll day after day can be damaging to the ego. It’s nice, after all, to score a goal every once in a while.
“The worst thing about it is we don’t gain any confidence in practice because he is so flippin’ good,” Eastview coach Drey Bradley said with a grin after Dricscoll’s latest command performance, a 37-save masterpiece in the Lightning’s 4-1 upset of Eagan in the Section 2AA championship on Thursday, Feb. 28, at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum in St. Paul.
Driscoll, who didn’t become Eastview’s starter until late December, had recorded shutouts over Rosemount and Apple Valley in the first two rounds of this year’s playoffs. Eagan didn’t crack the Driscoll Code until Mr. Hockey candidate Zach Glienke scored with 4:28 left in the third.
“He just played unreal this whole entire section tournament,” said Eastview junior John Snodgrass, who scored twice against the Wildcats. “Two shutouts and one goal in what, 40 shots out there?”
Driscoll has a ridiculous .988 save percentage and 0.33 goals-against average in three postseason games. Toss out a 7-1 loss to Eagan on Feb. 12, and Driscoll has allowed two goals in his last six games dating back to a 2-0 triumph over Lakeville South on Feb. 5.
Eagan sophomore Zach Driscoll has allowed one goal in three playoff games. Photo by Loren Nelson
A first-period save on a Glienke breakaway only served to reinforce the fact the top-seeded and No. 4-ranked Wildcats were running up against a hot goalie. Glienke deked Driscoll out of position, but was unable to slide the puck into the open net as Driscoll reached back for the puck with his stick.
How did he manage to stop that one?
“I’ll be honest, I don’t know,” Driscoll said. “I think I got lucky and he whiffed a little bit. I don’t know if my stick caught it or what happened, but it stayed out of the net, and that’s all that matters. “
Driscoll moves with quickness and a smoothness that makes every save look as simple and routine as taking a swig out of a water bottle. Rebounds? Driscoll doesn’t allow any rebounds. Or, at least, it’s rare when he does.
“I think he is very good,” Eagan coach Mike Taylor said. “It’s tough to get second looks on him. That’s what you need in a goaltender.”
In the third period Driscoll made a save that ended with the puck in his catching glove and his catching glove behind his back.
A behind-the-back save? Yeah, Driscoll is technically sound, but there’s some Dominik Hasek influence in him, too. That means Driscoll will make a save by any means necessary.
He can take a hit, too. Cullen Willox plowed into Driscoll late in the second period. Willox got a goaltender interference penalty, Driscoll got his bell rung.
"How do you get a goalie off his game?" Bradley said. "You put a little pressure on him. We kind of expect some of those things to go on. We’ve just got to keep our composure."
Eastview goaltender Zach Driscoll.
In 20 games this season counting playoffs Driscoll has a 15-4-1 record, .945 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.
“For a sophomore?” Bradley said. “That’s pretty good.
“He practices the same way he plays, So he comes out and competes every night in practice.”
Meanwhile, for guys like Snodgrass, the ego takes hit after hit.
“He thinks its funny,” Snodgrass said about Driscoll’s ability to shut his teammates down. “We don’t."
Now it's on to the biggest stage of them all for Driscoll and the Lightning, who haven't reached the state Class 2A tournament since 2001. Eastview does have plenty of state tournament experience, however, as members of the schools' state championship lacrosse, baseball and soccer teams from the last calendar year are sprinkled throughout the roster.
"These guys have played in big games," Bradley said. "And it just made it easier this season with the kind of character you have from a state champion."
Driscoll isn't one of those champions. At least not yet. He plays golf and was on the Lightning's sophomore football team last fall.
"I'm on top of the world right now," Driscoll said. "I can't even put it into words. I've been going to the state tournament every year with (teammate) Keith Muehlbauer and our dads.
"And now it's us. It's our turn."
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
Eastview's Jake McGlocklin beats Eagan goaltender Andrew Lindgren for a second-period goal. Photo by Loren Nelson
Junior forward John Snodgrass scored twice, and sophomore goaltender Zach Driscoll made 37 saves as No. 3-seeded Eastview stunned top-seeded Eagan 4-1 in the Section 3AA championship game on Thursday, Feb. 28, at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum in St Paul.
Pierce Erickson added two assists, and Jake McGlockin and Cole Cooper had a goal and an assist each to help the Lightning (18-9-1) reach the state tournament for the first time since 2001.
Zach Glienke scored the lone goal for No.4-ranked Eagan, the two time defending section champion which was repeatedly frustrated by the stellar play of Driscoll.
After Snodgrass put the Lightning up just 7 minutes, 11 seconds into the game, the Wildcats had plenty of chances to tie the score, including a breakway by Mr. Hockey finalist Zach Glienke. Driscoll made a sprawling save to stop what appeared would be an easy goal for Glienke, who had a mostly open net in front of him after a deke got Driscoll out of position.
Cooper scored the eventual game-winner at the 12:02 mark of the opening period to help the Lightning shock the Wildcats (23-4-1).
Eagan netminder Andrew Lindgren had 30 saves, but it wasn't enough as he struggled early with his rebound control.
Snodgrass put Eastview ahead 4-0 with a breakaway goal with 6:54 remaining.
Cullen Willox had an assist on Glienke's third-period goal that made the score 4-1 and ended Driscoll's playoff shutout streak at 106 minutes, 28 seconds.
Driscoll, who became Eastview’s full-time starter in December, entered the game with consecutive shutouts against Rosemount and Apple Valley in sectional play.
-- Ben Bakker, MN Hockey Hub staff
Eastview's John Snodgrass.
1. John Snodgrass, Eastview
The junior forward got the Lightning on the board midway through the first period, punching home a rebound goal. He scored again on a third-period breakaway despite being at the end of a long and exhausting shift. Snodgrass also had an assist.
2. Zach Driscoll, Eastview
The sophomore goaltender was his usual stellar self, stopping 37 of 38 shots against a high-powered Eagan offense that had only a handful of rebound chances. Driscoll's best save might have come in the first period when he somehow reached behind his back to stop a breakaway shot by Eagan Mr. Hockey candidate Zach Glienke.
-- Ben Bakker, MN Hockey Hub staff