Minnetonka wore its blue road sweaters in Thursday’s Section 2AA final at a packed-to-the rafters and long sold-out Braemar Arena, the mark of the road team and No. 2 seed behind top-seeded Chanhassen.
The Skippers, No. 1 in Class 2A in the most recent Legacy Hockey rankings and regarded by many as the state’s most complete team, found themselves trailing with time running out in the third period.
There was no panic, no nerves. Just focus and belief.
Underdogs? No, not Minnetonka.
“In this section, we were the No. 2 seed, but everyone knows we are the No. 1 team in the state,” Minnetonka coach Sean Goldsworthy said after the Skippers outlasted Chanhassen 2-1 in double overtime. “We’ve played everybody, we’ve beaten everybody, and every ranking has us at No. 1.
“We’re unbeaten against the state tournament teams, and I think you will come to find that we will be the No. 1 seed. If we keep playing the way we do, we’re going to be a tough out.”
Playing in its first section final, and within 6 minutes of its first state tournament berth, Chanhassen, which broke a scoreless tie midway through the third period on Micah Saxon's goal, can vouch for the “tough out” description of the Skippers.
Luke Garry converted on a power play off passing from Ashton Schultz and Danny Pasqua to tie the score at 1-1 with 5:41 remaining. From there, the Skippers won most of the battles and had the edge in possession.
Alex Lunski, a third-line forward, ended it early in the second overtime. He found a seam in the Chanhassen defense just outside the crease and one-timed a feed from behind the net from Max Krebsbach.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” Lunski said, a University of St. Thomas commit. “It’s a crazy feeling, it feels so good. This is the best hockey game I’ve ever been a part of.”
Minnetonka boasts tremendous depth that few, if any, teams in the state can match. Factor in three dangerous forward lines all possessing high-end speed and skill, and the Skippers might be on a tier above the rest of the pack.
“Everyone on our team is a good hockey player, and you can put anybody out there and you can trust them,” Lunski said. “I think that’s what really helps our team. All the boys are in, working towards the same goal.”
The Skippers head to their seventh state tournament, and first since 2018, Goldsworthy’s first year as head coach and the program’s first state championship.
This Skippers team might be the deepest Goldsworth has seen since that group where 75 percent of the players went on to play juniors, college or the NHL.
“If we play our game, then we can go pretty far,” Lunski said. “It’s all on us.”
EDINA - Alex Lunski’s goal 2:12 into the second overtime lifted Minnetonka past Chanhassen 2-1 in the Section 2AA final on Thursday in front of a capacity crowd of about 2,200 at Braemar Arena.
Locked into a scoreless tie for two-and-a-half periods, Chanhassen finally broke through on a goal by Micah Saxon with just under seven minutes remaining.
Less than two minutes later Minnetonka answered with a power-play goal from Luke Garry.
And the stage was set for a dramatic finish.
The Skippers, No. 1 in Class 2A in the most recent Legacy Hockey rankings, fell to a No. 2 seed in Section 2AA based on a head-to-head loss to Chanhassen in December, one of two losses this season for the Skippers (26-2-0).
No matter for Minnetonka, which rode its incredible depth to eventually wear down the up-and-coming No. 2-2A Storm (24-4-0).
Skippers’ goalie Kaiser Nelson stopped 33 of 34 shots to record the win, while his counterpart Kam Hendrickson made 24 saves on 26 shots.
The state tournament berth is the seventh in school history for Minnetonka, and first since 2018, when it won the Class 2A championship.
The Storm were playing in a section championship for the first time in program history.