Minnetonka senior forward Sam Rothstein (No. 23) sneaks a first-period shot past Duluth East goaltender Paige Skoog on Saturday, Jan. 21. Photo by Adam Crane
If you took away all the cameras, television timeouts and overall spectacle of Hockey Day Minnesota, you’d still find a matchup between two of the best high school hockey teams in the state.
Throwing in all the media coverage simply magnified the game’s importance.
For Minnetonka, the word of the day was redemption -- redemption from a 6-2 loss to Duluth East during the Schwan Cup on Dec. 28; redemption from a 3-2 loss at home against Edina on Thursday, Jan. 19.
The Skippers got that and more, crushing the Class 2A top-ranked Greyhounds 9-3 in front of a packed Pagel Activity Center on Saturday, Jan. 21.
“They wanted to play a more complete game,” Minnetonka coach Brian Urick said. “The last time we played (Duluth) East, we turned the puck over a lot, we didn't do the little things to win a hockey game. I thought tonight we got pucks in deep, we didn't turn over in the neutral zone, we clogged the middle on them and we really limited their chances off the odd man rush, which they're really dangerous (on).”
While neither admitting nor directly denying that his team overlooked Edina in preparation for the game against Duluth East, Urick assured his team came ready to play on Hockey Day.
“We had a good meeting after the Edina game on where we're heading as a team,” Urick said. “I thought against Edina we played really selfish, one-on-one hockey -- getting frustrated, a lot of teammates yelling at each other, we had some dissension. We had a little heart-to-heart and the guys really responded tonight and played a great team game.
“When you do the little things well, you throw up nine goals.”
Minnetonka junior forward Max Coatta (No. 9) watches one of his four goals beat Duluth East goaltender Paige Skoog on Saturday, Jan. 21. Photo by Adam Crane
Scoring four of Minnetonka’s nine goals was Max Coatta who often found himself wide-open in front of the Duluth East net and the junior forward capitalized on his chances.
Coatta reaffirmed several things motivated the Skippers and fueled the lopsided victory.
“We were kind of disappointed with our team play on Thursday night against Edina,” Coatta said. “We just wanted to come out and play as a team and play defense first and it paid off for us.”
Not to mention the revenge factor.
“That Schwan Cup game was not too fun,” Coatta said. “We didn't play our best but we knew we would get another chance at (Duluth East). We just wanted to make the most of it.”
Of course there was also the packed Pagel Activity Center, providing support and building confidence for Minnetonka.
“So many people there, just a great environment, it was awesome to play in,” Coatta said. “Tons of people there, playing against the number one team in the state; you kind of gotta get up for it.
“If we play as a team, good things will happen.”
Also having big games for the Skippers were Vinni Letteiri who registered five points (one goal, four assists), Sam Rothstein who had four points (one goal, three assists) and Erik Baskin who notched three points (two goals, one assist).
Perhaps no one was happier with Minnetonka’s offensive outburst than Urick.
“We're going to need those guys to perform if we're going to go anywhere,” Urick said. “(Max) Coatta and Vinni (Lettieri) have been struggling a little bit and tonight they put it together. They started to play a more complete game, do the little things that paid off. (Erik) Baskin, (Sam) Rothstein and (Jack) Ramsey on that line have been heating up. They've been playing really well.”
Urick was also quick to credit his team's defensive effort.
Minnetonka senior goaltender Matt Behounek made 33 saves as his team defeated top-ranked Duluth East on Saturday, Jan. 21. Photo by Adam Crane
“Our defense played a really solid game, our forwards did a great job coming back to make sure that our (defense) could have tight gaps and really be in (Duluth East's) face and those are the things that win hockey games,” Urick said. “It's not all the flashy, one-on-one play; it's playing solid in all three zones.”
As Hockey Day Minnesota coverage continued following Minnetonka’s high-scoring upset victory, despite the atmosphere and hype the game would remain a regular season matchup.
Even the Skippers realize that the game is just a small part of the big picture.
“We're definitely excited about this win,” Baskin said. “We're going to enjoy it over the weekend but come Monday we're going to go back to work because we got Edina again at Edina, we've got (Eden Prairie), Wayzata, great team that always give us a game. We gotta build through sections and we gotta get it going through these next eight games.”
Urick also admitted there wasn’t much time to dwell on the big win.
“It feels really good especially after Thursday night's performance,” Urick said. “I was really proud of the way the guys came back and played. They played with some fire and a lot of heart and that's what you need down the stretch.”
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff
The packed crowd at Pagel Activity Center and Minnetonka players alike celebrate one of the Skippers' nine goals against Duluth East on Saturday, Jan. 21. Photo by Adam Crane
An outcry of disappointment rang out across the state on Thursday, Jan. 12, after it was announced that the high school hockey games on Hockey Day Minnesota were moved indoors.
Though originally scheduled to be played on Lake Minnetonka on Saturday, Jan. 21, unusually high temperatures forced the high school games into Pagel Activity Center -- Minnetonka's home arena.
For the Skippers -- no outdoor game, no problem.
“I think it made it a better hockey game,” Minnetonka coach Brian Urick said. “You're playing on a better surface and more controlled atmosphere so it's more of a hockey game than a spectacle. I thought that helped our guys -- our guys usually feel pretty comfortable in this rink too.”
Duluth East coach Mike Randolph agreed that moving the game indoors made for a better overall matchup between the top-two teams in Class 2A.
“This is their building and we're used to going into tough buildings -- we have that kind of schedule this year, we play a lot on the road,” Randolph said. “I don't think (moving the game indoors) had anything to do with (the loss). Unfortunately, it wasn't outside -- I think it would have been fun for the kids, more fun for both teams.
“The game was played here and I didn't have a problem with that at all.”
While the Skippers admitted they were disappointed in what could have been, it was hard to complain after earning a lopsided, upset victory over top-ranked Duluth East.
“We were all pretty bummed out,” Minnetonka senior forward Erik Baskin said about his feelings when he head the games were moved indoors. “I was pretty bummed. But after a couple days, I got thinking -- just pack Pagel (Activity Center), it's still a ton of fun. It's not going to matter. Obviously it's fun to play outdoors because you never really get to. It was a ton of fun.
“Nothing really changed about it.”
True to Baskin’s statement, the game carried all the thrills and emotions of a battle highlighted by two powerhouse programs.
“It was definitely a bummer but the hype's still there,” Coatta said. “It was number one versus number two. Everyone was ready for it, that's for sure.”
Along with the big matchup, the game itself managed to maintain the exciting atmosphere of the state’s once-a-year hockey holiday.
“It was a fun one,” Baskin said. “We definitely were excited to have Hockey Day in our home arena. You pretty much dream of it, always thought it would be cool to play on this day. Lucky enough, we got it. We just tried to come out with as much energy as possible.”
With the victory earned, Coatta restated the Skippers’ general mentality of the Hockey Day Minnesota indoor game.
“It was awesome.”
-- Michael Murakami, MN Hockey Hub staff
Minnetonka may have changed the name ‘Hockey Day Minnesota’ to ‘Upset Day Minnesota.
The No. 2-ranked Skippers (16-2-0) crushed No. 1-ranked Duluth East (17-1-0) in their 9-3 victory on Saturday Jan. 21 at the Pagel Activity Center in Minnetonka, dominating play in front of a packed house.
The win handed the Greyhounds their first loss of the season.
Minnetonka jumped on the board first when senior Erik Baskin buried a shot in the slot past Greyhounds' goaltender Paige Skoog, sending the stands into a frenzy and charging up team that already had fire heading into the game.
Sam Rothstein found Baskin in the middle of the ice for the goal and after Duluth East star Jake Randolph tied the game with goal on the other end, Baskin returned the favor to Rothstein, passing to him in the middle of the ice for another score.
The Skippers kept the pressure on in the first, tacking on a third goal in the period when Phil Katopodis picked a corner after a beautiful toe drag move.
From there the game belonged to junior Max Coatta. He scored two goals in the second and added two more in the third, all on clean shots also in the slot. His rocket of a slap-shot had Paige Skoog scrambling throughout the matchup.
In the third, Baskin netted his second goal of the game on replacement goaltender Brent Vizanko, who came in after the sixth goal given up by Duluth East.
Minnetonka had its way in the middle of the ice, finding space right in the Duluth East house. The Greyhounds miscues cost them the game as nearly all of the Skipper's goals came from the heart of their defense.
Before this game, the most goals the Greyhounds had allowed was four.
Jake Randolph scored twice and added an assist for Duluth East.
1. Max Coatta, Minnetonka
The junior forward couldn’t be contained by Duluth East, scoring four goals. He was loose in the slot the entire game, firing in one-timers, unleashing slap shots, and sniping corners on two different goalies. He now has 39 points on the season (19 goals, 20 assists) which is good for second on the Skippers.
2. Erik Baskin, Minnetonka
Baskin scored twice and assisted on another goal for the Skippers. He opened up the scoring in the game, giving Minnetonka momentum. His assist came on the second goal of the game which was a beautiful feed to Sam Rothstein. The senior forward has 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) which is third on the team.
3. Vinni Lettieri, Minnetonka
Lettieri played the role of point-guard for Minnetonka, dishing out four assists, all to Max Coatta. The senior forward also tacked on a goal at the end of the game for good measure. He leads the team in with 20 goals, 28 assists, for a total of 48 points.
-- Walker Orenstein, MN Hockey Hub staff