by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River girls hockey kept alive its bid for a state tournament trip Saturday by pummeling the team that prevented the Elks from going last year.
Defensemen Madison Ellis and Chelsey Petrich both scored while helping their team post a shutout, Jonna Curtis hit two more goals and Tori Herrmann made 26 saves as the Elks ousted Proctor-Hermantown-Marshall 4-0.
The Section 7AA semifinal win at Elk River Arena was achieved by the same score as PHM’s win over the Elks in last year’s finals in Duluth.
“The girls were pretty excited to beat the team that knocked us out last year,” said coach Joe Heasley, “but in the big picture it doesn’t make any difference who we beat to get to the finals.”
The Elks (18-8) will duel Grand Rapids/Greenway (12-9-4), which beat Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 3-0, in the finals at Forrest Lake on Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Ellis opened the scoring with a top-shelf goal sweeping past the net in the first period, and Curtis made it 2-0 with a zig-zagging rush to the net later in the period.
Curtis lifted her second goal over PHM goalie Anya Morris’ shoulder in the second period from about 20 feet away, and moments later slid a nice feed to Petrich on a breakaway with Petrich punched the puck under the goalie for a 4-0 edge.
Herrmann posted her third consecutive shutout. She has been justifying Heasley’s difficult decision to elevate her to No. 1 goalie status above senior Samantha Geissler, a five-year starter and former team MVP.
In Herrmann’s last three starts the Elks have beaten Blaine 1-0 (12 saves), Cambridge-Isanti 3-0 (20 saves) and now PHM.
“Tori is very calm and collected out there,” said Heasley. “Looking at her, you couldn’t tell if we were up for four goals or down by four goals.”
Herrmann, a junior, has started eight of the Elks’ 26 games and the Elks have won all eight. She has five shutouts while allowing six goals on 157 shots.
Emma Stauber, PHM senior defenseman who ripped three goals against the Elks in last year’s section finals, and two more when the Elks beat PHM 5-3 on Dec. 22, was held in check this time.
“We always wanted to know where she was,” said Heasley.
PHM finished 15-10-2.
In a section with no ranked teams, the Elks will vie for the title against a Grand Rapids-Greenway team they beat 5-1 on Jan. 14 at home. The Thunderhawks are led by sibs Molly and Morgan Illkainen with 17 and 16 goals, respectively.