by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
After a one-year absence, the Elk River girls hockey team has stormed back to “state” for the third time in four years.
The top-seeded Elks got four goals from Jonna Curtis and tumbled Grand Rapids-Greenway 4-1 for the Section 7AA championship on Wednesday evening at Forest Lake.
“The girls are very excited to be going back to state,” said coach Joe Heasley. “Everyone played pretty well. We only gave up one goal in the section tournament.”
The Elks (20-8) will play in the state tournament beginning Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Pairings won’t be determined until Sunday.
Curtis, who’ll play in her third state tournament, wlll be one of the top scorers there with 47 for the season.
While Curtis dominated one end of the ice, a bevy of Elks stepped up on the other end, blocking shots better than the team has all year.
“We had six penalties so we were short-handed a lot,” said Heasley. “Our penalty-kill was really blocking shots, like we always tell them to but they don’t always do it.”
Cassi Schreckenghaust, Josie Brown, Danielle Esperum, Curtis, Kalee Forster and Cassey Petrich were getting in the way of shots in front of goalie Tori Herrmann.
Herrmann, who stopped 16 of 17 shots, has started nine game and the Elks are 9-0 in those games.
The Elks had 25 shots on goal.
The Elks beat Grand Rapids-Greenway 5-1 on Jan. 14 at home. The section final rematch was close until late in the game. GR-R finished 14-10-4.
Curtis backhanded the puck past GR-R goalie Sydney Helmbrecht just 1:51 into the game after juking past a defender, unassisted.
Bailey Rasmussen tied the score with a power play goal for the Thunder Hawks at 5:06 of the first period.
The score stayed 1-1 until 15:24 of the second period when Curtis scored on a soft shot from the top of the arc that somehow got past the goalie who might have been screened. Cassey Petrich assisted.
The Elks nursed that 2-1 lead until Curtis struck twice in the third period at the 8:36 and 10:18 markers, with Esperum assisting on the first one.
A year ago, a top-seeded Elk team that had won the NWSC championship got pummeled by Proctor-Hermantown-Marshall 4-0 in the finals. The Elks beat PHM 4-0 in this year’s semifinals. The two years before that, the Elks were champions of a different section. This will be Elk River’s fifth state trip overall. The 2004 team was state champs.