Minnetonka twice scored goals less than 10 seconds apart in beating Hill-Murray in the Schwan Cup Gold Division quarterfinals (Photos by Tim Kolehmainen).
What’s the best way to win a hockey game?
Unbeaten Minnetonka did just that in a 7-3 victory over Hill-Murray in a Schwan Cup Gold Division quarterfinal at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis on Monday, Dec. 26.
The second-ranked Skippers popped in two goals in the opening 20 seconds, as echoes of the National Anthem were still pinging off the rafters.
“(A quick lead) really makes it hard on the other team,” said Minnetonka coach Brian Urick. “It was good to get off to a fast start in this one.”
Urick wanted his Skippers to come out firing, something they haven’t been doing despite getting off to a perfect start into the holidays. He cited two games as examples: Minnetonka was tied with Bloomington Jefferson after one period before eventually pulling away for a 6-1 win on Dec. 15; and in an eventual 7-3 victory against Burnsville on Dec. 1, the Skippers trailed 2-0 only five minutes into the game before rallying.
There was no repeat Monday night. Senior Sam Rothstein made sure of that, popping in a rebound off a face off in Hill-Murray’s end just 12 seconds into the game.
“I didn’t even know it was going to go in, it was going kind of slowly,” said Rothstein, who teamed with Erik Baskin and sophomore Jack Ramsey on the Skippers’ starting line.
Even with his starting group of forwards rolling and only a dozen seconds off the clock, Urick immediately switched units and brought out his second line of Vinni Lettieri, Max Coatta and Connor Thie. Call it a strategic maneuver – and a successful one.
“We always try to change the line right after a goal, either for or against,” explained Urick. “That line is either really feeling good about themselves or they’re really down.
Immediately off the ensuing face off at center ice, Lettieri skated into the Pioneers’ zone and ripped in the Skippers’ second goal – only eight seconds after Rothstein’s opening tally.
“We were on our heels and that’s not a good thing for high school kids,” said Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner, whose team did settle down and cut into the lead later in the period. “You can’t worry about (the bad start). What’s done is done. You try to keep it close and get it tied up.”
While Lechner’s teams have often been on the other end of scoring outbursts, he knew the unranked Pioneers were facing a powerhouse. And the Skippers weren’t even finished.
“Our talent was inconsistent today, partially due to Minnetonka and partially due to us,” Lechner said. “Minnetonka is a very good team. They put on a clinic on the proper way to play the game.”
Unbelievably, Minnetonka actually tallied two quicker goals during the second period, as Jared Ridge and Lettieri scored just seven seconds apart to extend the lead to 6-2.
“The game’s kind of funny like that,” said Urick. “Sometimes the other team is still thinking about their mistakes on the last goal.”
-- Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports USA
Hill-Murray's Charlie Sampair (14) fires a shot wide of Minnetonka goaltender Matt Behounek (30).
No. 2-ranked Minnetonka built a 2-0 lead just 20 seconds into the game, then rode a big second period to a convincing 7-3 win over Hill-Murray on Monday, Dec. 26, at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
University of Minnesota recruit Vinni Lettieri led the Skippers with two goals and an assist. Max Coatta added a goal and two assists, while Sam Rothstein scored twice, including the first goal to get Minnetonka rolling.
After Rothstein and Lettieri scored to give the Skippers the 2-0 lead, Hill-Murray’s Conrad Sampair cut the lead in half, temporarily stopping the bleeding for the Pioneers.
However, Coatta scored his goal just two minutes after Sampair’s marker, snuffing out any possibility of a first-period comeback.
Minnetonka and Hill-Murray traded goals midway through the second before the Skippers exploded for three-straight tallies in 1 minute, 31 seconds to put the game away.
Michael Prochno, Steve Johnson and Jack Ramsey also had multi-point efforts for the Skippers, who improve to 9-0-0.
Matt Behounek stopped 24 of 27 shots, backstopping Minnetonka to the Schwan Cup Gold Division semifinals, where the Skippers will meet Edina in an 8 p.m. matchup on Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Charlie Sampair scored a goal for the Pioneers (4-4-0). Willie Brown also scored for Hill-Murray; Andy Faust and Zach LaValle each had two assists.
The Pioneers' goaltenders saw plenty of rubber, stopping 48 of the 55 shots Minnetonka put on goal. Starter John Dugas allowed seven goals on 31 shots in a losing effort, while replacement Travis Neubeck turned away all 24 shots he faced.
Hill-Murray plays Blaine in a consolation semifinal at the Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff
1. Vinni Lettieri, Minnetonka
The future Gopher dazzled throughout the contest, scoring twice and helping out on another. Lettieri could have had five or six goals, but often passed up shooting chances to try to set up teammates. Perhaps his most impressive efforts came shorthanded, where he created numerous chances with his speed and vision.
2. Sam Rothstein, Minnetonka
The Skippers star scored two goals, including the first just 12 seconds after the opening draw. Rothstein was a thorn in the side of Hill-Murray defenders all night with a persistent forecheck and gritty wall play.
3. Max Coatta, Minnetonka
Coatta showed tons of skill around the net, set teammates up all over the zone and was great on the man-advantage. He finished with a goal and two assists, and his quickness and puck presence were big factors in his own end.
-- Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff