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 second-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 score tied 1-1, No. 4 Eagan (8-2) 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, Coatta 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 lead for the Skippers (11-1).
"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.
Tag(s): Star Tribune