by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
It could have been much worse.
The Elk River skaters and goalie Tori Herrmann did enough things right to keep from getting blown out at the state tournament Thursday evening.
The Elks were blanked by the state’s top-ranked team, the Minnetonka Skippers, 3-0 at the Xcel Energy Center, not bad considering they were outshot by 33 to 11.
They were no match for a very deep team led by the Star-Tribune all-metro first-team goalie, Julie Friend, and a Miss Hockey finalist, defenseman Rachel Ramsey, who rifled two slapshot goals.
“Everything,” said Elk coach Joe Heasley when asked what impressed him about Minnetonka (27-1-1). “Offensively, defensively, neutral zone, goaltender, they are solid up and down. Three solid lines, four or five solid defenseman, and they break the puck out really well.”
Elk junior Jonna Curtis came into the game with 47 goals and of course drew the brunt of the Skippers’ defensive efforts.
“They always had somebody on me,” said Curtis, who often had two or three corralling her.
She had just three shots on goal according to the official MSHSL stats, but created more opportunities than that. Her best chance was in the second period when she snaked past a defender and had a close-range shot but Friend, her teammate on a summer team, stuffed it.
Asked if that’s the best defensive job that’s ever been done on her, Curtis nodded, “Yes, I think so.”
With Herrmann some difficult saves to foil a number of one-on-one duels and vicious slap shots, and Elk defenders covering the puck tenaciously on rebounds, the unseeded Elks avoided a lopsided loss like those suffered by two other unseeded teams in the first round.
They had two pretty good periods, and one shaky one.
“I think we did pretty well, at times,” said Heasley. “The first period we did well, and the third period we did well. The second period … we just weren’t winning many battles, along the boards, and in front of the net, and we picked up a couple penalties.”
The Elks (20-9) dropped into the consolation bracket where they will face North Wright County at noon Friday at the U of M’s Ridder Arena.
The Elks had a student gallery of about 150 kids cheering for them along with the parents who are always there.
Herrmann, a junior was under the gun most of the game as she absorbed her first loss in 11 starts this year. She said it’s been “pretty exciting” to go from backup goalie to starter on a team in the state tournament.
Herrmann and the Elks had an encouraging first period. She made eight saves, two of them tough ones 30 seconds apart, stuffing a breakaway shot by Hadley Cookson between her ankles, then gloving a howitzer from Paige Baldwin.
However, with Tonka in the power play, the Skippers got on the board when Laura Bowman made a lunging rebound shot after a teammate hit the post on a slap shot, at 12:51.
The period ended 1-0 but Ramsey, Gopher recruit and daughter of former NHL player and coach Mike Ramsey, gave the Skippers breathing room with her second-period tandem of goals.
The Elks were solid again in the third period, highlighted by killing off a 5-on-3 power play that Minnetonka enjoyed for a minute and 47 seconds. Curtis, Danielle Esperum and Cassey Petrich were the defenders.
It’s tough to win when the other team holds you to 11 shots.
“It’s great .. when you can limit a team that has a player like Jonna Curtis,” said Ramsey. “That’s is a huge thing. Even of those 11 shots, many of them were good shots and I’m glad we kept that number down for Julie [Friend].”
Said Heasley: “We knew going in they were gonna outshoot us, and we had to get pucks to the net and get some rebounds.”
Now Tonka is somebody else’s problem.
“They will be tough to beat,” said Heasley.
Edina, Hill-Murray, Coon Rapids advance
Coon Rapids, champion of Elk River’s Northwest Suburban Conference, reached the semifinals with a 6-1 win over North Wright County, a Mississippi 8 team. The Cardinals (24-5) face Minnetonka (27-1-1) in the semifinals 8 p.m. Friday.
Edina (25-3-1) will duel Hill-Murray (22-7) in the other semifinal at 6 p.m. Edina beat Rosemount 6-0 and Hill-Murray beat Lakeville South 4-3.
Minnetonka 3, Elk River-Zimmerman 0
Elk River-Zimmerman …… 0 0 0 — 0
Minnetonka …………… 1 2 0 — 3
Scoring — Mtka: Laura Bowman (Sydney Morin, Amy Petersen)
Penalties — Mtka: Maggie Bazany (hooking) 9:31 … Elks: Cassey Petrich,
Cassey (checking) 10:57.
Scoring — Mtka: Rachel Ramsey (Paige Baldwin, Bowman), 5:41 … Mtka: Ramsey (Kira Von Steinbergs, Hadley Cookson), 14:30.
Penalties – Mtka: Bazany (checking) 6:52 … Elks: Cassey Petrich (checking) 7:52 … Mtka: Ramsey (contact to the head) 15:13.
Scoring — none
Penalties – Elks: Cassi Schreckenghaust (checking), 2:13 … Elks: Sarah Thedens (checking) 2:26.
Shots on goal – Elks 4-4-3 11; Minnetonka 8-9-16 33.
Power plays – Elks 0-for-3; Minnetonka 1-for-3
Penalties – Elks 4 for 8 minutes; Minnetonka 3 for 6 minutes
Goalies shots-saves – Elks; Victoria Herrmann 33-30 … Minnetonka: Julie Friend 11-11