By Mike Max

EDINA, Minn. (WCCO) — To get here, on the varsity on the Edina hockey team, takes a long and competitive internal road.

“It’s really competitive, ever since we were like squirts and pee wees,” forward Lewis Crosby said. “It’s always tough in tryouts, making the top team and not making the top team. You just got to grow up and keep that competitive spirit going in the varsity tryouts.”

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Curt Giles has been heading this program for 19 years. Before winning, he wants to build the feeling.

“We produce a culture here and produce a program here that they want to stay. Fortunately for us we’ve had a number of kids that chose to stay and they’re going to go play junior next year or play college next year,” Giles said. “Hopefully we’ve produced a culture that they enjoy here. They enjoy being coached by us, they enjoy playing here in the community.”

On a roster that features at least eight Division I players, Sammy Walker is the in the middle of it. A talented forward — not big, but dynamic, like the team.

“The biggest thing is our speed. I think everyone in the lineup can move,” Walker said. “Just the forecheck and backchecking. It’s pretty special when you got everyone got speed like that.”

What they have is a team that could win it all, but that’s true of a handful of favorites. See what the coach has learned is simple: it’s difficult to predict a high school season.

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“One thing you realize more so than anything, these are just kids,” Giles said. “They’re not junior players, they’re not college players, they’re not pros. They’re just kids. They’re 16, 17-year-old high school kids. That’s kind of the roll of the dice you’re trying to look for. It all depends on finals, it all depends on school, it all depends on girlfriends, it all depends on a lot of things.”

They have played a difficult schedule, their only two losses to Minnetonka.

“We played probably one of the best schedules in the state. It’s nice playing teams like Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, those kind of teams, and you get to see them early and those are the real tests,” Walker said.

But the objective is simple: They know they have a special team, so the goals are lofty.

“Before the season we come up with goals that we want for ourselves, and definitely the top goal we came up with was we’re in the state championship in March,” Crosby said. “So we just got to have every day at practice being better and better and better, having these games build on each other and build on each other.”

But that depends on a lot of things beyond talent.

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“We’ve got a lot of good players. It’s been a fun year so far this year,” Giles said. “We’ve had some good success, but we all know how this turns out. The tail end of this year is really the most important part of the year.”

Mike Max