Minnetonka's Jack Ramsey scores this power play goal late in the second period on an assist from Max Coatta and Tommy Vannelli to put the Skippers up 3-2, a lead they would never relinquish. Photo Brian Nelson
Navigating a ship through the treacherous waters of the Lake Conference to perfection in nearly impossible.
Teams in the Lake Conference have to grind away at a schedule that is comparable to the Southeastern Conference of college football.
Since the new Lake Conference was formed at the start of the 2010 season which grouped state powers Eden Prairie, Edina, Minnetonka and Wayzata together, none have been able to go through conference play unblemished.
The No. 4-ranked Skippers capped off a perfect conference record of 8-0-0 with a 6-2 victory over Eden Prairie on Thursday, Feb. 14 at the Eden Prairie Community Center.
"I'm just really proud of our guys and the work ethic that they have had," Skippers coach Brian Urick said. "To go 8-0 in this conference is pretty special especially against the teams that are in it."
Along with the Skippers, No. 5 Edina and No. 8 Wayzata join them in the top 10 of the state rankings. Eden Prairie is just outside at No. 12.
Treading through conference play hasn't been an easy task for Minnetonka. Each matchup has been a grind.
Four of Minnetonka's eight conference wins were by two goals or less, which included a pair of 4-3 victories against Edina.
"Thats why I love playing in the conference so much," Skippers' senior captain Max Coatta said. "It's a big test every night."
Coatta led the way for the Skippers against Eden Prairie. His two goal, three assist performance added to his team leading 25 goals, 31 assists and 56 points.
But it wasn't Coatta who got Minnetonka going.
The Eagles did not make Minnetonka;s final conference game a walk in the park.
Luc Snuggerud gave Eden Prairie a 2-0 when his wrist shot from the point on the power play beat Skippers' goalie Jacob Berger to the upper shelf.
Despite outshooting the Eagles, Minnetonka could not find the back of the net.
Not deterred or frustrated, the Skippers stuck to their plan kept throwing pucks on net.
"Shots were in our favor," Minnetonka defenseman Tommy Vannelli said. "We knew we just had to keep pushing."
"We were not worried because we had a lot of game left," Coatta said. "We knew one was going to pop."
Defenseman Charlie Burton provided that pop.
Burton came in with no goals on the season. He left Eden Prairie with two.
In a span of 2 minutes and 10 seconds Burton tied the score.
His first goal came on a slapshot from the point that found its way through all sorts of bodies in front of the Eagles' goalie Jake Kielly and into the net.
"When Charlie got the first one there was a charge of excitement on our bench," Urick said. "Then we got the second one and our bench was really excited after that one."
Momentum shifted fully to the Skippers.
They continued to dominate the second period and capped it off with a power play goal with just 15 seconds left.
Jack Ramsey was camped out in front and put away a rebound on the power play to give Minnetonka a 3-2 lead.
"That was huge for momentum especially," Coatta said. "We tied it up and got that last one to go into the third set the tone."
Minnetonka added three more goals in the third, which included two by Coatta.
It put to rest any comeback by Eden Prairie, which has played well down the stretch and even in defeats, the Eagles have been close.
The Skippers wanted no part of a nail-biter and made sure to close out the conference season how it started.
"We have had some great teams in the past," Coatta said. "We have never won the conference without a tie. To go undefeated is pretty special, that is for sure."
"Winning the conference is a great accomplishment that we will remember for a while," Vannelli added.
The regular season is not finished yet for Minnetonka.
It will play No. 7 Blaine on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the State Fairground Coliseum in St. Paul.
Another contest against one of the state's elite? Just add it to the Skippers list of what's in store for them in the near future.
"It's great that we won our conference and went undefeated in it, but it's all just beginning for us," Urick said. "We got out sections coming up and with Benilde-St. Margaret's, Wayzata and these guys (Eden Prairie), we are going to have our work cut out for us, so we will enjoy this one tonight, but get back to work tomorrow."
Eden Prairie's Michael Graham scored the game's first goal when Minnetonka goalie Jacob Berger lost track of the puck for a moment. Photo by Brian Nelson
No. 4-ranked Minnetonka capped off a perfect Lake Conference record with a 6-2 win against Eden Prairie on Thursday, Feb. 14 at the Eden Prairie Community Center.
Max Coatta led the way for the Skippers with two goals and three assists and senior defenseman Charlie Burton also added two goals.
Eden Prairie struck first when Michael Graham scored on a rebound right in front of Minnetonka's net.
Luc Snuggerud gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead 13 seconds into the second period when he fired a wrist shot from the point on the power play that found the upper shelf.
Burton scored the next two goals to tie the score and Jack Ramsey put away a power play goal from close quarters with only 15 seconds left in the second period to give the Skippers a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.
Coatta scored his first when he took a pass from Ramsey along the left boards. Using his speed, Coatta rushed to the net and was able to slide a shot inside the right post to beat Eagles' goalie Jake Kielly.
Coatta added an empty net goal when the Eagles pulled Kielly and Jack Kuehn concluded the scoring when he backhanded a shot by Kielly with 16 seconds left in the third.
Minnetonka started Jacob Berger between the pipes and he made 30 saves. It was the second start he had against the Eagles this season.
Kielly faced 37 shots and stopped 32.
The Skippers improve to 18-5-1 and aforementioned a perfect 8-0-0 in the Lake Conference. They will finish the regular season against Blaine on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum in St. Paul.
Eden Prairie drops to 11-12-1 with the loss and will conclude the regular season against Edina on Saturday, Feb. 16 at Braemar Ice Arena in Edina.
Minnetonka defenseman Charlie Burton scored the Skippers' first two goals. Photo by Brian Nelson
1. Max Coatta, Minnetonka
The senior captain of the Skippers had two goals and three assists for a five point night. His second goal came on an empty net, but his first showed why he is one of the most dangerous players in the state. He used his speed to separate himself from the Eagles defensemen and his hands to make a move on Jake Kielly, where his slid the puck just inside the right post.
2. Charlie Burton, Minnetonka
Another senior defenseman for the Skippers had a huge night with two goals and they were much needed. Minnetonka was down 2-0 in the second, but Burton tied the score with two quick goals in the middle of the period and sparked six unanswered goals.
3. Jack Ramsey, Minnetonka
Ramsey gave the Skippers their first lead with 15 seconds left in the second period with a power play goal right in front of the Eagles net. The momentum of his goal carried into the third where Minnetonka scored three more goals, including one where Ramsey assisted on Coatta's first goal.
Minnetonka senior Max Coatta had two goals and three assists to lead the Skippers. Photo by Brian Nelson