Chaos turns to calmness when Erik Baskin grabs hold of the puck.
Fending off defenders with his 6-foot-3 frame, Baskin looks for open teammates as casually as a tourist takes in an ancient city’s sights.
Worst-case scenario for the Minnetonka senior is to dump the puck back deep in the corner for another go-round with opposing defenders.
Here’s the best-case scenario:
“Everybody kind of got mesmerized by Baskin, having guys bounce off him,” Minnetonka coach Brian Urick said in describing the Skippers’ game-clinching play in their 4-2 victory over Eagan on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at the Pagel Activity Center in Minnetonka.
With the clocking winding down in the third period and the No. 3-ranked Skippers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Baskin skated out of the Eagan corner with the puck. As he cruised along the boards toward the blue line, he attracted Wildcats like a bug zapper lures mosquitoes.
One, then two and then three Wildcats attempted to lodge the puck loose from Baskin, who might have been the only person in the near-capacity building who spotted a wide open Jack Ramsey to the left of the net. Ramsey one-timed the cross-ice pass from Baskin for a goal, all but clinching the victory in the much-anticipated matchup between the No. 3-ranked Skippers (11-1-0) and No. 4 Wildcats (8-2-0).
“He made it easy,” Baskin said about Ramsey, a sophomore forward. “There was a perfect lane right to him. I just had to throw it anywhere near him.
“He’s a big kid. He’s got a good reach, a good shot. He can bury it.”
Baskin might as well have been talking about himself. He scored a team-best 21 goals in 27 games last season, but has just six goals in 12 games so far this season, although he did open the scoring against the Wildcats with a first-period deflection.
“I thought Baskin, this was his best game of the year tonight,” Urick said. “He was on pucks, he was puck protecting. You know, sometimes he kind of waits for (linemate Sam) Rothstein to do everything for him, but tonight we were trying to get him on pucks and he was more effective tonight.”
Baskin was knocked out of the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League season this fall with a bout of mono. The recovery process was a slow, and only now does he feel completely healthy.
“It feels like it is gone,” Baskin said. “They say the fatigue can last for a while. I think it has been OK. I’m not feeling too bad right now.”
The Skippers are feeling good, too. After losing 6-2 to No. 1 Duluth East in the Schwan Cup Gold Division championship on Dec. 28, Minnetonka was much sharper in its matchup with the Wildcats.
“I felt like it was a good game for the whole team, really,” Baskin said. “I felt like everyone was moving their feet. The D played well. We had all three lines going on the forecheck.
“We actually looked forward to this game. Coming off Duluth East, we wanted a good opponent to play. Not a lesser team. We needed a statement game to get back on track.”
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor