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Skippers won't be sold short

By Star Tribune and MN Hockey Hub staff, 01/03/12, 10:30PM CST

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Max Coatta's two shorthanded goals allow No. 3 Minnetonka to slip past No. 4 Eagan


Junior forward Max Coatta, left, scored twice for Minnetonka in its 4-2 victory over Eli May (14) and Eagan. Photos by Helen Nelson

Minnetonka junior forward Max Coatta scored goals in bunches as a freshman, though seldom on plays he created.

 His production has not changed, but improved proficiency in various aspects of the game has made Coatta a bigger threat. He scored two shorthanded goals on the same Eagan power play Tuesday, fueling the third-ranked Skippers’ 4-2 victory at the Pagel Activity Center.
 
“When he played with [Max] Gardiner he was more of a guy who went to the net and picked up the garbage,” Skippers coach Brian Urick said. “Now he’s a little more dangerous off the rush because his skating has gotten better and he’s stronger on the puck.”
 
With the game tied 1, No. 4 Eagan (8-2-0) went on the power play early in the second period. When two Wildcats players got tangled and fell near their blue line, Coatta pounced.
 
Improved quickness, Cotta said, “helps a lot on the penalty kill. You can jump on loose pucks quicker.”
 
Urick knew what was coming even before Coatta slipped a puck past goaltender Christian Butler.
 
“When you give Coatta a breakaway it’s usually going to be a bad story,” Urick said.
 
Coatta struck again less than a minute later, beating Butler back to the net for a goal and a 3-1 Skippers (11-1-0) lead.
 
“One power play killed us,” Eagan coach Mike Taylor said.
 
But the Wildcats fought back. Will Merchant cut the Minnetonka lead to 3-2 at 12:21 of the second period with his second goal of the game. Concerned that Merchant has not drawn Division I college offers, Taylor had a message for coaches who question whether Merchant’s passion matches his playmaking abilities.
 
“If you didn’t see it tonight, you should look for a new profession,” Taylor said. “He’s an all-world kid, and he competed like a maniac out there tonight.”
 
Eagan used its size and strength advantage to limit Minnetonka’s attack. But Erik Baskin, one of the Skippers’ most rugged forwards, showed similar grit fighting for the puck and setting up Jack Ramsey’s deciding third period goal.
 
The victory ensures Minnetonka’s reputation as a tough team to play at home. Minnetonka has skated off the Pagel Activity Center ice a loser just twice going back to the 2007-08 season.
 
-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune staff writer

Baskin makes statement against Wildcats


Minnetonka's Erik Baskin (22) blocks Eagan's Derick Kuchera (4) as Kuchera tries to pass the puck. Photo by Helen Nelson

Chaos turns to calmness when Erik Baskin grabs hold of the puck.

Fending off defenders with his 6-foot-3 frame, Baskin looks for open teammates as casually as a tourist takes in an ancient city’s sights.
 
Worst-case scenario for the Minnetonka senior is to dump the puck back deep in the corner for another go-round with opposing defenders.
 
Here’s the best-case scenario: 
 
“Everybody kind of got mesmerized by Baskin, having guys bounce off him,” Minnetonka coach Brian Urick said in describing the Skippers’ game-clinching play in their 4-2 victory over Eagan on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at the Pagel Activity Center in Minnetonka.
 
With the clocking winding down in the third period and the No. 3-ranked Skippers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Baskin skated out of the Eagan corner with the puck. As he cruised along the boards toward the blue line, he attracted Wildcats like a bug zapper lures mosquitoes.
 
One, then two and then three Wildcats attempted to lodge the puck loose from Baskin, who might have been the only person in the near-capacity building who spotted a wide open Jack Ramsey to the left of the net. Ramsey one-timed the cross-ice pass from Baskin for a goal, all but clinching the victory in the much-anticipated matchup between the No. 3-ranked Skippers (11-1-0) and No. 4 Wildcats (8-2-0).
 
“He made it easy,” Baskin said about Ramsey, a sophomore forward. “There was a perfect lane right to him. I just had to throw it anywhere near him. 
 
“He’s a big kid. He’s got a good reach, a good shot. He can bury it.” 
 
Baskin might as well have been talking about himself. He scored a team-best 21 goals in 27 games last season, but has just six goals in 12 games so far this season, although he did open the scoring against the Wildcats with a first-period deflection.
 
“I thought Baskin, this was his best game of the year tonight,” Urick said. “He was on pucks, he was puck protecting. You know, sometimes he kind of waits for (linemate Sam) Rothstein to do everything for him, but tonight we were trying to get him on pucks and he was more effective tonight.”
 
Baskin was knocked out of the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League season this fall with a bout of mono. The recovery process was a slow, and only now does he feel completely healthy.
 
“It feels like it is gone,” Baskin said. “They say the fatigue can last for a while. I think it has been OK. I’m not feeling too bad right now.”
 
The Skippers are feeling good, too. After losing 6-2 to No. 1 Duluth East in the Schwan Cup Gold Division championship on Dec. 28, Minnetonka was much sharper in its matchup with the Wildcats.
 
“I felt like it was a good game for the whole team, really,” Baskin said. “I felt like everyone was moving their feet. The D played well. We had all three lines going on the forecheck.
 
“We actually looked forward to this game. Coming off Duluth East, we wanted a good opponent to play. Not a lesser team. We needed a statement game to get back on track.”
 
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

Minnetonka players celebrate after scoring a goal as a dejected Will Peterson (23) of Eagan skates to the bench. Photo by Helen Nelson

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

 Junior forward Max Coatta scored shorthanded goals 55 seconds apart in the third period – and just missed notching a third goal on the same shift – as No. 3-ranked Minnetonka beat No. 4 Eagan 4-2 on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at the Pagel Activity Center in Minnetonka.

Coatta’s first shorthanded goal came on a breakaway after two Eagan defenders collided near center ice. He scored his second as he alertly shot from sideboards as Wildcats goaltender Christian Butler scrambled to get back into the goal after playing the puck.  
 
Coatta’s second goal gave the Skippers (11-1-0) a 3-1 lead with 11:22 left in the second period.
 
Eagan (8-2-0) closed to within 3-2 with 4:39 left in the second on Will Merchant’s one-timer from the high slot. Merchant, a senior, also scored in the first period when he ripped a shot that hit the net just under goaltender Paul Ciaccio’s water bottle.
 
Sophomore Jack Ramsey put Minnetonka ahead 4-2 with 4:02 left in the third when he one-timed a gorgeous cross-ice feed from linemate Erik Baskin.
 
Eagan failed to capitalize on two power-play opportunities in the third period and was 0-for-4 overall. Minnetonka went 1-for-2 on the power play.
 
Ciaccio made 11 of his 25 saves in the third period. Butler stopped 25 of 29 shots.
 
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

1. Max Coatta, Minnetonka
The junior super sniper scored two goals while the Skippers were shorthanded – on the same shift. And, get this, he came inches away from notching a third goal on the same penalty kill when he blasted a shot just wide of the net. Coatta was also a demon defensively, as he was usually the first forward from his line racing down the ice on the backcheck.

Speaking of snipers, Merchant might very well have the hardest shot – and quickest release – in the state. He scored both Wildcats goals on laser beams into the upper regions of the net and rocketed another shot square off the crossbar and into the back of Minnetonka goaltender Paul Ciaccio.
 
The senior seems to have fully shaken off the aftereffects of his bout with mono, as he was his usual tenacious self in the corners and along the boards. He set up the crucial fourth Skippers’ goal by drawing a crowd of Eagan players along the boards and then whipping a pass across the ice to linemate Jack Ramsey for a one-timer late in the third period. Baskin opened the scoring with a first-period goal on a deflection.
 
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

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Moorhead's Jack Stetz (21) throws his arms up as he and his teammates celebrated the win. ] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com