By Mike Max

WAYZATA, Minn. (WCCO) – The Class AA Boys State Hockey Tournament starts Thursday, and it’s a bit strange that the defending champs are the biggest underdog.

That’s the role of Wayzata, who enters with a 10-17 record. But they’ve got a coach who understands.

Sit with Pat O’Leary, and he knows this much about high school hockey: It’s difficult to predict. His team was struggling, came to life with four straight wins, gave up just two goals in that time and stunned Edina in the section finals.

“It’s supposed to be fun. Every year is a little different but just seeing those kids’ faces when they accomplish something that cool is the main reason why I like to coach,” O’Leary said.

He also understands what it takes to win it. They are the defending state champions, and he knows what peaking means.

“It starts with your goaltender obviously and from back on up,” O’Leary said. “You’ve got to have seniors that make big-time plays for you and our seniors have been doing that the past couple weeks. We’ve been playing better.”

And their opening opponent, that Eden Prairie team seeded No. 1 that they beat in last year’s championship game. It’s a loaded, explosive offense behind Casey Middlestaedt, and they’ve already beat Wayzata twice.

“They’re very dynamic so our goal is to make sure that we’re ready to play in the first five or 10 minutes just so our guys are feeling good about themselves,” O’Leary said. “If we feel like we can play a good, tough first period, I think the pressure will move back towards them if it’s a good game for the first period. So that’s our goal is just to be ready to go in the first.”

But these are high school kids, and this time of year you just don’t know.

“Just really take advantage of the moment and be excited about having the opportunity,” O’Leary said.


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