Two undefeated teams clashed off the North Shore as the Duluth East Grey Hounds played host to the Minnetonka Skippers in an intriguing early season game. The Hounds topped the Skippers 2-0 at Heritage Arena before 1,054 paid customers.
The game featured the veteran make up of Mike Randolph’s Hounds against the young but skilled Minnetonka Skippers. Duluth East (3-0) did what it could to be as hospitable as possible and handing the Skippers (3-1) ten power plays including nine in a row. There were also two 5-3 man advantages awarded to the Skippers.
They could not solve the goaltending of senior Matt Cooper who entered the game with a 102 minute shutout string. He increased his remarkable string to 153 minutes last night and was his team’s best penalty killer. He made an amazing pad save on Minnetonks’s Sam Coatta in the first period to keep the Skippers off the board. With his leg extended, Cooper held his ground in the v-drop while the Skipers hammered away at the puck yet could not find the back of the net. Cooper also flashed the leather with a sizzling glove save that he snapped out of the air in the second.
His counterpart, Jim Kruger was equally impressive and held the quick skating and physically stronger Hound team at bay. Kyle Lutzka scored his 2nd goal of the season on a deflection off Max Forbort’s shot at 3:01 of the first period. He was stationed at the mid slot and redirected it to the top shelf past Kruger.
The Hounds took a 1-0 lead to the locker room as the Skippers, who started slow and were without the skilled Sam Coatta for ten minutes, regrouped and created space and opportunities with their skill. Max Gardiner was prevalent all game and had a number of chances to score, only to be snuffed out by Cooper and his high caliber defensive corps led by Forbort, Joe Arbour, and Al McLean and Nick Toscano.
Even though Duluth East was shorthanded much of the game, they were able to limit the second chances by Minnetonka, and it was Max Tardy who scored for the 2-0 lead as he took a pass from Joe Nelson off the left side of the circle in the offensive zone. He seemed to surprise Kruger who had to react to his explosive speed. Tardy made no mistake and pumped home the goal low and hard to the stick side.
The Hounds fended off the power play of the Skippers with some solid work on the penalty kill and went on to the win. Skippers coach Brian Urick was pleased with his team’s effort and said, “I am really proud of how our team played.” The Skippers dressed just four seniors, one of them a goalie for the game. As for the penalties, Mike Randolph suggested that his team will need to address that in the near future. It carried over from the Wayzata game where the Hounds had four defensemen and Tardy in the box at one time in that game.
Matt Cooper made 22 saves for the win as his team was outshot 22-21 including 7-4 for the third period.