The forecheck was clinical. Which is to say all of Minnetonka’s cycling, one-touch passing and protect-the-puck physical play on Saturday that could have come straight out of a How to Play Hockey - Advanced Edition handbook.
The cumulative effect of all of the time spent in the Shakopee defensive zone was surgical. As in, for the Sabers, death by a thousand drop passes.
No. 2 seed Minnetonka fired 62 shots at Shakopee goaltender Aleksi Huson (Minnetonka’s Kaizer Nelson made 18 saves) en route to a 3-1 victory over the No. 4 seed Sabers in a Section 2AA semifinal at Braemar Arena that had the look and feel of a much bigger blowout than the final score indicated.
Men versus boys? Not that simple, really. Shakopee is program on the rise featuring several top-caliber players — freshmen and sophomores, mostly — with bright futures. Minnetonka is a junior-dominated bunch that has taken its lumps over the years in the playoffs.
“They’ve got good young players,” sixth-year Minnetonka coach Sean Goldsworthy said. “We have older kids. We've gone through the Lake Conference. We’re galvanized. We've played in really heavy games.
“So our guys, they don't flinch.”
No. 1-2A Minnetonka (25-2-0) played 90 percent of the first period in the Shakopee end, outshooting the Sabers 20-6. But the Skippers led only 1-0 at the first intermission.
“I think that was our thing, just forecheck hard to get them tired,” said Sam Scheetz, who scored a second-period goal for the Skippers. “Then just keep working the zone and our chances would come.”
Gavin Garry also scored in the second period for Minnetonka as it took a 3-0 lead. Cooper Simpson scored the lone goal for No. 3 seed Shakopee (16-11-0) with 1:31 remaining in the third.
The win was the 16th straight for Minnetonka, with all but three of them coming by two or more goals.
Goldsworthy mixed sci-fi and sentimentality when assessing his group’s commitment to the greater good.
“They're so unselfish,” he said. “And they're so into playing for each other. Actually, sometimes, I gotta remind them to shoot.
“If I could cryofreeze a team, this would be the team I would cryofreeze. And I'd probably stick around for another 30 years.”
Minnetonka junior defenseman John Stout isn’t looking that far ahead.
“It just feels good to know that we're going to section finals,” he said. “We bought into something bigger than ourselves, and we aren't really here for individual accolades. We want to win together.”