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Skippers in shutdown mode

By Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor, 02/24/12, 10:20PM CST

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Minnetonka goaltender Paul Ciaccio notches third straight shutout in win over Wayzata


Minnetonka goaltender Paul Ciaccio hasn't allowed a goal in three starts, including a 3-0 shutout of Wayzata on Saturday. Photo by Helen Nelson

Rebound control. 
 
Paul Ciaccio works on it every day. 
 
Rebound control, rebound control, rebound control.
 
For the Minnetonka junior goaltender, stopping the puck is merely one component in the fine art of Making a Save. 
 
Ciaccio is intensely focused on what happens to the puck after he blocks it. Does he then freeze it? Direct it out of play? Send it into a corner? Move it to a teammate?
 
Worst case scenario: A juicy rebound is available to the opposing team for another shot on goal.
 
Ciaccio hates that option. Despises the thought of it.

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.”

Minnetonka goaltender Paul Ciaccio extends his leg to make a third-period save against Wayzata. Photo by Helen Nelson

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap


Paul Ciaccio

Junior goaltender Paul Ciaccio withstood an early flurry of scoring chances, and senior linemates Sam Rothstein and Erik Baskin continued their torrid scoring pace as No. 2-ranked Minnetonka beat No. 8 Wayzata 3-0 on Saturday, Feb. 25, in a Section 6AA semifinal in front of a capacity Bloomington Ice Garden crowd.
 
Ciaccio, who has shutouts in each of his last three starts, was tested on a series of odd-man rushes and backdoor passing plays in the first period when Wayzata (16-10-1) had numerous quality scoring chances. He finished with five saves in the period and 15 overall as the Skippers (24-3-0) earned a berth in the section championship game for the second time in three seasons.
 
Minnetonka plays Benilde-St. Margaret’s at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 29, at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis in the Section 6AA championship game.
 
Rothstein scored the only goal of the first period on a wicked shot that soared in under the crossbar. Baskin, who had eight points in the Skippers’ quarterfinal victory over Minneapolis, scored midway through the second period and Justin Bader completed the scoring late in the second when he scored on a 2-on-1 rush with Jared Ridge.
 
Rothstein has two or more points in 10 of his last 13 games; Baskin has scored at least one point in 17 straight games.
 
The Trojans again had several quality scoring chances while on a power play to start the third period, but Ciaccio was there to stop the initial shot and the few rebounds that he was unable to control or that weren’t pushed to the corners by the Skippers’ defense.
 
Wayzata senior goaltender Alec Almquist made 25 saves and was especially sharp in the second period when the Skippers controlled play for long stretches and unloaded 17 shots on goal.
The junior goaltender didn’t face a high quantity of shots, but of his 15 saves virtually all of them could be labeled as quality scoring chances. Ciaccio’s best save might have been one of his first, a sprawling stick save on a rebound chance that left Wayzata’s Chase Haller shaking his head in disbelief. 
 
All Baskin did in the section quarterfinals was register eight points (two goals, six assists). So what does he do for an encore? A goal, an assist, his usual impeccable puck control and a couple of body sacrificing blocked shots will have to do.
 
No goals, no assists for the junior defenseman, but he and partner Tommy Vannelli repeatedly beat the Wayzata forecheck by cleanly breaking the puck out of the Skippers’ defensive zone. They also did a masterful job of clearing bodies and pucks from in front of the goal, limiting the Trojans’ rebound opportunities.

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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