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Maple Grove stings Edina

By MN Hockey Hub staff, 11/26/11, 10:38AM CST


Kyle Koop, Crimson shut out Hornets to win Turkey Trot Championship

Maple Grove goaltender Kyle Koop thwarts a scoring attempt by Edina's Dylan Malmquist. Photo by Helen Nelson

Maple Grove may as well have been the poster child for all those teams entering the season with a question mark standing in front of their goal.

Last season senior Ryan Coyne posted a .923 save percentage and allowing 1.72 goals per game as he posted a 20-4-2 record.

So who would replace the Crimson's former brick wall?

Enter Kyle Koop.

The senior goaltender made 23 saves for a 3-0 shutout victory over Edina in the championship game of the Turkey Trot Tournament at Plymouth Ice Center on Saturday, Nov. 26.

“Edina's always been a tough team,” Koop said. “As the game shows, we definitely fought through with the 3-0 win.

“I was expecting there to be a goal, but I'm definitely glad I stayed in it and made sure I came out with the shutout.”

Fortunately for Maple Grove coach Gary Stefano and the rest of the Crimson, it looks as though Koop is meeting preseason expectations.

“Going into the season -- he's a senior, he's been with us for two other years and he's played some JV and some varsity -- but yeah there's no doubt that he was the guy we were looking for,” Stefano said. “He sat back, he's a great kid, he took it all in stride so it was tough but he knew he's worked hard in the offseason. He knew that this would be his year to get a shot to do it and we're hoping he can do the job this year.”

Turning shot after shot away, Koop maintained his cool on the ice – something that Stefano believes to be Koop's most valuable trait.

“As you see him play, he doesn't get upset very often,” Stefano said. “He's always the same old Kyle Koop. He never gets rattled, and that's what you have to have for your goalie.”

Playing against the aggressive Hornets, several skirmishes broke out in front of and around Koop who admittedly experienced difficulty living up to his coach’s hype.

“It's a struggle not to get back up and kind of go at it, but I definitely back off. There's no point in getting a penalty for it,” Koop said about all the pushing and shoving.

So how does Koop suppress the urge to fight back?

“I actually sing in my head a little bit or I pray or something, anything,” Koop said. “I just keep my mind on the game and not on the crowd or on people chirping.”

With a shut out in his second game as Maple Grove’s full-time starter, Koop has not had to worry too much about what to do when the opposing team scores. When it finally does happen, don’t expect him to change his ice-cold mentality.

“If the puck finds the net, I just kind of tend to stay calm and just collective and make sure I have the next one,” Koop said. “I make sure I stay focused and on the puck.”

Through the season’s first two games, Koop has posted a 1-0-1 record (with the tie being a shootout victory) while allowing 1.39 goals per game and having a .921 save percentage. The strong start for the Maple Grove goaltender is likely to benefit the Crimson as the season marches on.

“(The strong start) makes me know that I can definitely do it and make sure I can stay focused on the games ahead no matter how tough or how slow they are,” Koop said. “Last year we wanted to get to the state tournament but we haven't gotten there quite yet which is a bummer. This year I'm really pushing for that.

“This is my last year for hockey and I just want keep going at it.”

-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff

Forward Nick Leer, one of just two Edina seniors, assuming leadership role for Hornets

Nick Leer (18) is one of just two seniors on the Edina roster. Photo by Helen Nelson

Meteoric might be an overstatement in describing Nick Leer’s rise from the junior varsity to varsity fourth-liner to senior co-captain.

Let’s just say the Edina senior has come far, fast.

“It’s kind of fun to look around and remember how excited you were to be here,” said Leer, sounding like a grizzled veteran even though he has yet to play a full varsity season.

One of just two seniors on the Edina roster, Leer doesn’t feel the need to keep the Hornets’ youngsters (there are six sophomores and two freshmen on the roster) in line.

“They are pretty energetic, they have some funny things to say,” Leer said. “I kind of encourage it. We can have fun now.

“We have to get to work, but I think right now it is just down to having fun and getting together and playing.”

Edina lost 3-0 to Maple Grove in the championship game of the Turkey Trot Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 26. Maple Grove, featuring a roster with 10 seniors, is No. 5 in the Hockey Hub’s preseason rankings.

Leer wasn’t worried much about the loss.

“Maple Grove is a good team, but I know there are a lot of things we have to work on,” Leer said. “We’ve only had a week. I think just because they are a little more poised and older, and then we’ve got a lot of younger guys who have to get used to high school hockey and the speed and stuff.

“We’ll be just fine.”

The Hornets won the state Class 2A championship in 2010 and placed fourth last March. Leer, a forward, scored five goals and five assists in 30 games.

On Saturday Leer skated on a line with junior center Lou Nanne, who has committed to play at the University of Minnesota. Not a bad landing spot after a week of grueling practice sessions.

Our tryouts were hell, actually,” Leer said. “It was five days of three hours of just going hard. There were kids punching and fighting and swearing at each other just because they wanted to be in that spot.

“This group of 20 guys is pretty unique, but they’ve worked for it.”

-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

Senior forward Spencer Bell scored twice, and senior goaltender Kyle Koop made 23 saves to lead Maple Grove past Edina 3-0 on Saturday, Nov. 26, in the championship game of the Turkey Trot Tournament at Plymouth Ice Center.

Koop, stepping in as the Crimson starter after the graduation of All-Metro selection Ryan Coyne, was at his best in the third period when he made 12 saves to allow Maple Grove to kill three consecutive Edina power-play chances.

Bell’s second goal came on a power play with 3 minutes, 30 seconds remaining and all but clinched the victory for Maple Grove, which typically has finished second or third in the Turkey Trot behind either Edina, Wayzata or both.

Maple Grove, featuring 10 seniors, beat Wayzata in a shootout in Friday’s semifinals. Edina, with just two seniors, beat Buffalo 4-0 in the semifinals.

-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

1. Kyle Koop, Maple Grove
A senior beginning his first season as the Crimson’s starting goaltender, Koop made all his saves look routine through two periods, then found himself under siege in the third as Edina went on three consecutive power plays. He held withstood the pressure well, staying in position, smothering rebounds and staying out of the heavy traffic in the crease.

2. Spencer Bell, Maple Grove
Bell, a senior forward, scored the first and last goals and had plenty of other good opportunities in between. He centered an effective line that included senior Shane Wolden and sophomore Nate Erickson. His goal with 3:30 left in the third came after a crazy carom off the glass resulted in the puck sitting in the crease to the left of the goal.

3. Matt Nelson, Edina
The Hornets’ junior defenseman was rock solid in the defensive zone, moved the puck crisply and generally kept the front of the Edina net clear of bodies and rebounds.

-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

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