Junior Paul Ciaccio shakes hands with Wayzata after posting a 3-0 shutout victory in the Section 6AA semifinals. Photo by Helen Nelson
“When I let up a bad rebound I kind of get a little agitated with myself,” Ciaccio said. “That helps in games because when I do let up a bad rebound, I’m there to make the second.”
Ciaccio was fuming in the first period of No. 2-ranked Minnetonka’s 3-0 Section 6AA semifinal victory over No. 8 Wayzata on Saturday, Feb. 25, in front of a capacity Bloomington Ice Garden crowd.
With the No. 4-seeded Trojans (16-10-1) coming at the top-seeded Skippers (24-3-0) in waves, Ciaccio was tested with a series of point-blank shots. He most often froze the puck or directed it out of the crease area.
But not always.
With Minnetonka holding a 1-0 lead late in the first period, Wayzata’s Sam Majka unloaded a heavy shot that Ciaccio kicked back out and into the slot. That’s when Chase Haller came flying into the crease area and fired a shot that a diving Ciaccio managed to block.
“He got it with the paddle of his stick,” Minnetonka coach Brian Urick said. “That was a huge save there. That was big, that was really big.
“That’s what you need your goalie for, right?”
Ciaccio played the first two periods in the Skippers’ 12-0 section quarterfinal victory over Minneapolis on Thursday. He concluded his regular season with a shutout victory over Eden Prairie on Feb. 16. That adds up to eight straight shutout periods for a goalie on a team best known for its abundance of offensive firepower.
“He’s playing the best he has all year right now,” Minnetonka senior Sam Rothstein said. “That’s kind of what it comes down to, is a hot goalie in the playoffs. So hopefully he can keep it up.”
Ciaccio spent much of the regular season alternating starts with senior Matt Behounek. They both were outstanding, as shown in their stat lines: Behounek went 10-2-0 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .904 save percentage, Ciaccio went 12-1-0 with a 1.54 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
Ciaccio’s goals-against average ranked sixth in the state.
“It definitely created a competitive environment,” Ciaccio said about sharing time in goal with Behounek. “Especially in practices, too. You are always trying to make sure you are the best goalie on the ice.
“It definitely helped.”
Ciaccio stopped all 15 shots he faced against Wayzata. Not the most impressive shutout, if judged strictly on the stat line.
But most Ciaccio’s his best saves came when the game was scoreless or Minnetonka was nursing a 1-0 lead.
“Early in the game, if your goalie makes a save that he has to work really hard for -- which he did on a couple of backdoor tap-ins -- and you have a group of guys like they have, that’s a good confidence boost,” Wayzata coach Pat O’Leary said. “He played great again today, obviously.”