Coaches and players are suspicious creatures of habit. When it comes to winning in the playoffs, those routines are even more magnified. Such is the case with Eric Johnson and a box of Hot Tamales.
When his name was announced during the lineup introductions of the semi-final game, Johnson held up a box of Hot Tamales. As with everything seen during a state tournament game, there is an important story that serves as a backdrop. The hot Tamales are a reminder of Kelly Phillips, who was an important part of the Minnetonka hockey program and tragically passed away in a car accident.
"Kelly's dad, Dan has had a superstition about eating Hot Tamales during playoff games," said head coach Eric Johnson. "This is the third year that he has given me Hot Tamales for section and all the state games."
The legend has grown to monumental status but Johnson who suffers from heartburn and outside of playoff games won't touch anything cinnamon, is finding it more difficult to give an impassioned speech to his players on the bench.
"TV timeouts happen, and I'm supposed to be breaking into a talk with my team and I end up with Hot Tamales in my mouth," said Johnson. "I have red stuff dripping off my chin."
Unfortunately for coach, he can't exchange them for Mike & Ikes which would be a bit more tame.
"I don't like eating Hot Tamales, I don't like chewing Big Red gum," said Johnson. "But I do because he (Dan) wants me to and the girls know it's a superstition. It's a ritual, a superstition gone amok."
Skippers Make History
What the Minnetonka Skippers have done over the past three seasons has been amazing. A 81-10-2 record over the past three seasons have the Skippers in the conversation of best teams ever and the three-peat has never been done in the history of girls hockey.
‘The Game' was beyond a classic. Skating for 4 hours and 14 minutes and ending at 1:04 A.M. the Skippers had what head coach Eric Johnson called a lucky horseshoe in their back pocket.
You won't find many players in the history of girls hockey that have scored bigger goals in more clutch situations than Amy Peterson. Her propensity of putting pucks in the net in big spots began her sophomore season when she scored the game winner in the championship game against Edina with 40 seconds left. From there, she popped the overtime game winner in last year's semi-final that propelled the Skippers to their second title.
This year, she tied the game at two in the section championship game to send Minnetonka to state but saved her most dramatic moment for the biggest stage. After skating for more than 113 minutes, Peterson sent the fans who remained at the ‘X' home after the puck bounced off her chest and into the net. Not pretty, but big none the less. Less than 24 hours later, she scored what would be the deciding goal in the title game and then set up her best friend Laura Bowman with a sweet tic-tac-toe play that sealed the deal and sent Skipper nation into a state of euphoria.
"We were talking about how impressive it was while we were screaming about it," said Bowman about the goal. "We knew it was pretty."