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Minnetonka survives thanks to winning mindset, fortuitous bounce

By Loren Nelson, 03/09/23, 8:30PM CST


No. 1 Skippers use clutch goals late in regulation and overtime to defeat tenacious Hill-Murray in state Class 2A quarterfinal

Minnetonka players celebrate the game-tying goal late in the third period against Hill-Murray. The Skippers defeated the Pioneers 4-3 in overtime in a state Class 2A quarterfinal. Photo by Jeff Lawler,

ST. PAUL — An unscreened shot from the point? Hill-Murray’s Jack Erickson makes that save 100 out of 100 times.

A puck that, last second, changes direction off a teammate’s knee is something altogether different. Cruel would be one way to describe it. Depending on the perspective, glorious is another.

With time running out in overtime, Minnetonka’s John Stout whipped a shot from the left point. Then declined to watch. And why not? Let the hockey gods have their say.

The nod came in favor of the No. 1-seeded Skippers, who beat unseeded Hill-Murray 4-3 on Thursday in a state Class 2A quarterfinal at the Xcel Energy Center.

“I was just thinking throw it to the net,” said Stout, a junior defenseman who didn’t have great expectations, or any expectations at all, about actually scoring. “Honestly, I just closed my eyes after that.”

Stout’s goal came with 39.4 second left in overtime and allowed No. 1-2A Minnetonka (27-2-0), the state’s top-ranked team for all but a few weeks of the season, to avert a furious upset bid by unranked Hill-Murray (14-14-1), which entered the tournament with a win-loss record hovering a game above .500.

“We really felt that if there’s a bounce, we’ll get it,” Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner said. “We’ve been through so much this year.”

Hill-Murray and its roster loaded with underclassmen came with 61 seconds of pulling off one of the biggest upsets in recent tourney history. But big, bad Minnetonka — battle tested and full of fight — tied it on junior forward Hagen Burrows’ second goal of the night. The Skippers had repeatedly hit posts or been defused by the brilliance of Erickson before Burrows drilled a shot between Erickson’s legs to make it 3-3 with 1:01 left.

“It was amazing,” Burrows said about Erickson’s 40-save performance. “The post helped him a little, but you can’t take anything away from him. He stopped five backdoors that would go in on other goalies.”

Minnetonka’s win Thursday was reminiscent of the Skippers’ 2-1 triumph over Chanhassen in the Section 2AA championship. Luke Garry scored late in the third to tie that game and then Alex Lunski won it in overtime. The main characters changed against Hill-Murray, but not the Skippers’ mindset.

“We were knocking on the door all throughout the third period,” Minnetonka senior defenseman Liam Hupka said. “There was no doubt in my mind we were going to score in the third period.”

Hagen Burrows scored twice for Minnetonka in its state Class 2A quarterfinal victory over Hill-Murray. The Skippers defeated the Pioneers 4-3 in overtime. Photo by Jeff Lawler,

Quick Recap

ST. PAUL — John Stout scored the winning goal on a deflected shot through traffic with 39.4 seconds left in overtime as No. 1 seed Minnetonka, the prohibitive tournament favorite, beat unseeded Hill-Murray 4-3 on Wednesday in a state Class 2A quarterfinal at the Xcel Energy Center.

Stout, a junior defenseman, fired a shot from the left point that changed direction after hitting a Hill-Murray defender's knee on its way to the net.

No. 1-2A Minnetonka (27-2-0) scored to tie it at 3-3 with 1:01 left in regulation when, with goaltender Kaizer Nelson pulled in favor of an extra skater, Hagen Burrows rifled a shot between Hill-Murray goaltender Jack Erickson’s legs. The goal was Burrows’ second of the game and 23rd of the season.

Landon Cottingham, a sophomore defenseman, scored twice for the unranked Pioneers (14-14-1). His goal with a 12:14 remaining in regulation came off a hard shot that deflected in off Nelson’s blocker. Cottingham also scored with 7:36 left in the first period to tie it at 1-1. He has seven goals this season.

Burrows opened the scoring 5:32 into the first period. Minnetonka’s Max Krebsbach and Hill-Murray’s Jude Bonin traded second-period goals.

Hill-Murray goaltender Jack Erickson was superb in making 40 saves.

Both teams have won state Class 2A titles in recent years. Hill-Murray won the 2020 state championship. Minnetonka won it in 2018.

Minnetonka beat Hill-Murray 5-0 on Jan. 5 at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood in the teams' lone regular-season meeting.

Hill-Murray’s Landon Cottingham skates into the Minnetonka zone during a state Class 2A quarterfinal Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Cottingham scored twice for the Pioneers. Photo by Jeff Lawler,

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