By Craig Schroepfer
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The 8th annual Hockey Day Minnesota took place on Saturday starting with a trio of high school games in Elk River, Minn. That was followed by a game at Mariucci Arena between Ohio State and Minnesota, with the nightcap taking place at Xcel Energy Center between the Minnesota Wild and the Dallas Stars.
Leave it to a former gopher and an Elk River native to play a big role in the Wild’s 3-2 win over Dallas.
Erik Haula would get the scoring started for Minnesota in the first period as he bounced the puck off the boards, getting past the defenseman in the process and beating Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen stick side to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. For Haula, it was his first goal in the NHL.
“It’s something you dream about. It’s a long time coming.” Haula said when asked about scoring his first NHL goal. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about. The reaction from the crowd and the standing ovation was unbelievable. It took me a while for the chills to go away.”
Dallas and Minnesota would trade goals throughout the rest of the game as Ryan Garbutt and Alex Chiasson would score for the Stars while Ryan Suter had the other goal in between those two for the Wild.
That would set the stage for overtime where Elk River’s own Nate Prosser would play the hero.
Off a shot by Nino Neiderreiter, Prosser goes hard to the net and is able to take the rebound and beat Lehtonen with 2:18 to play in overtime to give Minnesota a 3-2 win and more importantly two points against a division rival. For Prosser it was his second game winning goal in as many games.
“I think it was Nino and Coyle who had a good forecheck going down there.” Prosser said when describing what happened on the game winning goal. “They made some good plays and I saw them going to the net. I decided to sneak back door. The puck popped out to me and I just wanted to get it in.”
For Prosser, this was the biggest goal of his NHL career. He had one career goal coming into this weekend. Now Prosser has three career goals with two of them being game winners.
It’s only fitting that with Elk River being the host city for Hockey Day Minnesota that one of their own would be the hero for the Minnesota Wild.