by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River will be making its fifth state appearance and Minnetonka will be making it first when the Elks and Skippers square off Thursday, 6 p.m., at the Xcel Energy Center.
Other than that stat, everything points to Minnetonka (26-1-1) as a heavy favorite against the Elks (20-8).
The Skippers have been ranked first by Let’s Play Hockey all season and got the top seed for the tournament. Their only loss was against Shattuck-St. Mary’s, which plays a national schedule, not a state schedule. The Skippers had a tie and 1-0 win over No. 2 seed Edina.
Their goaltender, Julie Friend, was a first-team all-metro pick by the Star-Tribune, allowing just 15 goals in 21 games with .955 save percentage. She’s signed by St. Cloud State.
While Elk scoring is dominated by Jonna Curtis with 47 goals and 24 assists, with Cassi Schreckenghaust next with 13 goals, the Skippers have five players with 15 or more goals. They are led by Laura Bowman with 22 and Amy Peterson with 19.
Elk junior goalie Tori Herrmann is unbeaten in 10 starts with a .964 save percentage.
The other pairings are No. 2 Edina (24-3-1) vs. Rosemount (22-5-1), No. 3 Lakeville South (24-2-2) vs. Hill-Murray (21-7), and No. 4 Coon Rapids (23-5-0) vs. North Wright County.
The Elks-Minnetonka winner will face the Coon Rapids-NWC winner on Friday at 8 p.m. The losers will meet in consolation at noon Friday at Ridder Arena at the U of M.