It was the third overtime period when Curt Rau fired a slapshot from the point. The puck trickled through the opposing goaltender, seemingly just waiting for something to happen. A diving Kyle Rau showed up and poked the puck into the empty net to complete the scoring play started by his twin brother.
Pandemonium ensued inside the Xcel Energy Center. Overtime game-winners are always sweet, but this one was for the 2011 Minnesota Boys’ State Hockey Class 2A Championship. Rau’s goal gave his Eden Prairie Eagles another state title with a 3-2 victory over a powerhouse hockey program from the north, Duluth East. Rau finished off the longest title game in history at 80 minutes and 43 seconds. That season’s Mr. Hockey scored 41 goals and 40 assists for the 2010-11 season.
Now, he’s back home again.
As the Minnesota Wild open up training camp Friday, Rau will be there fighting for a spot on the roster back in the state of hockey. The Wild signed Rau to a one-year deal as a free agent in July. So, Matt Cullen might not be the only feel-good, Minnesota-boy story surrounding the Wild this year.
From the high-point of a state championship with Eden Prairie, Rau skated four years with the University of Minnesota, scoring 67 goals and 97 assists for 164 points in 160 games. That’s more points than any other Gopher scored in the past decade. He was a two-time captain and seemed to fit in well, not missing a beat from his high school success.
He led his team with six game-winners in 2013-14 as a junior. He also never went more than two games without a point that season. He played all 40 games as a sophomore (40 points) and was tied for first in the nation with seven game-winning goals. A pattern there, you might say. He also led the team in scoring his senior season with 20 goals.
He played for Sioux Falls in the USHL in 2010-11, scoring four goals and six assists in just 11 games, and won a state title with Eden Prairie in 2009. He made his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers as a rookie on Feb. 20, 2016.
Rau, who turns 25 on Oct. 24, comes home after spending time with the Panthers, the team that drafted him as a third-round pick in 2011. He scored two goals and one assist with the Panthers in 33 games over the past two seasons. He’s also spent time with San Antonio, Portland and Springfield in the AHL, scoring 58 points (29-29) in 118 games over three seasons.
He broke his foot near the end of last season, but is ready to go for training camp. If he starts the season in Iowa, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him as one of the first call-ups to the big team when the need arises.
A proven goal-scorer as a prep and college player, Rau has a chance to show what he can do to join the ranks of the Wild and shine on the Xcel Energy Center sheet of ice once again. After a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the St. Louis Blues last season for the Wild when they failed to pump in enough goals, Rau could be an attractive option.
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