Spring Lake Park/St. Anthony coach Tom Kulenkamp offers a blunt scouting report for his team's playoff hopes: It's all about senior goaltender Katie Bassett.
"She has to be at her best in the section playoffs for us to have a chance," Kulenkamp said.
Pressure is nothing new to Bassett, who spent the season under duress. She faced about 38 shots per game for a young team with a 9-14-2 record, and went through various emotions before arriving at a good place.
Along the way, Bassett kept the Panthers in games almost by herself. She stopped 56 shots in a 1-1 tie against St. Francis/North Branch. And four days later she posted 41 saves in a 1-0 victory against Totino-Grace. She allows 2.85 goals per game and boasts a .930 saves percentage.
The Panthers open Class 2A, Section 5 play against Champlin Park at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the section's play-in game held at the Roseville Skating Center. The winner between No. 8 seed Champlin Park and the No. 9 seed Panthers advances to play No. 1 seed Coon Rapids on Saturday.
Bassett spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about her growth this season.
Q You knew coming in this would be a young team [16 eighth-graders]. How did you get yourself mentally prepared for the season?
A I knew we'd struggle but I didn't realize I'd see 30-40 shots per game. It was overwhelming and stressful. But now, it's a breeze. If I don't see 30-40 shots I'm like, 'What happened? Good job defense.'
Q When did you have that change of heart?
A The Mahtomedi game [Dec. 4]. I did not start that game but I was put in halfway through. We lost but I didn't allow any goals. I realized, 'You know what? This is what I have to do if we're going to win.'
Q Coach Kulenkamp said he reminds you a lot that your job isn't to win games, it's to give your team a chance to win. Has that finally sunk in?
A He says that a lot. I get a little frustrated when I work hard but don't get the reward. But yeah, my job is to just give us a chance to win.
Q Hockey is a funny game and a lot of that is because of how much a hot goalie can change things. Could you maybe steal some games in the playoffs?
A Definitely. Plus, I like the way we've been scoring goals. We scored at least six goals in two of our past three games. I think we're starting to put it together and we're getting that spark.
Q You obviously lead by example with your play. But are you a vocal leader at all?
A On the ice I'm very vocal. You can hear me yelling from the stands. But I try to keep it positive. Some girls were doing the talking in the locker room earlier this season, but they would get mad, and I could see it wasn't working. This is kind of a new thing for us. The past three years we've had talent and we've been competitive. This year we're trying to put together our young talent and if you stay positive you get more respect for that.
Q Coach said you had an amazing stretch in January but that you got sick and that hurt your play a little. Are you healthy heading into the playoffs?
A I was sick for awhile but we played [St. Louis Park on Feb. 5] and I felt better. And about the time I got sick we had a death close to the team. ... She was a goalie, too. I kiss her picture before I go on the ice.
Tag(s): Spring Lake Park