Maple Grove Senior High goalkeeper PJ Enright will take some aches with him after Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Eden Prairie. The senior physically paid the price for sacrificing every inch of his body for the good of the team.
And even though the Crimson fell in the Class AA state semifinals at the Metrodome, Enright’s play was the difference between a blowout and a nail-biter—a matchup that was very much in doubt until the final two minutes of the game.
Enright faced 16 Eden Prairie shots and made seven acrobatic saves. In the end, it was a pair of goals by Abdul Omar with less than four minutes to play that sealed the win for the Eagles.
“Awesome,” Crimson coach Gregg Leininger said. “He was just unbelievable.”
It was Enright’s heroics that allowed Maple Grove to sustain Eden Prairies’s offensive onslaught in the first half. The Eagles controlled the ball for much of the half, battling through the Crimson’s stout defense and finding ways to put shots on net.
The more Enright saw, the more comfortable he felt.
“It was a lot more action than I usually do,” he said. “But I like it that way. It keeps me focused in the game.”
It took until the second half for Maple Grove (14-4-2) to respond. Leininger said his squad realized it “survived” Eden Prairie’s aggressiveness and realized it could play with the deep Eagles squad. After being outshot 14-5 in the first half, the Crimson held a 6-2 shot advantage in the second.
Unfortunately for the Crimson, the Eagles (14-3-3) had enough energy left late in the second half to take the lead.
At the 76:08 mark, Eden Prairie’s Omar tapped in a crossing pass to take 1-0 lead late, and 2:33 later he found the net again to ice the game.
Omar said Enright’s play stifled Eden Prairies’s chances all game until the final moments.
“He had some really good saves,” Omar said. “All we had to do was work hard and keep shooting and somehow get the goal. And we did that.”
The loss puts Maple Grove in the third place game on Thursday at 8 a.m. The Crimson will face either Eastview or Minneapolis Southwest.
Enright said while the team is disappointed, this team’s journey isn’t over yet.
“It’s tough to lose at the very end like that,” Enright said. “Scoring a goal and then dropping another one in again to go down two with two minutes left, that’s tough. But I’m really proud of our guys. No one here thought we’d make it this far. But we kept believing.”