by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Elk girls hockey team brought home the fifth-place trophy from the state tournament Saturday, boosted by an almost-forfotten former star player.
Samantha Geissler started her second straight consolation-bracket game in the nets and once again gave her team an excellent chance to win, which they did.
Cassi Schreckenghaust and Josie Brown scored the goals and Geissler stopped 19 shots as the Elks beat No. 4 seeded Lakeville South 2-1 at Ridder Arena before 455 fans.
In the final two games of her five-year career — and after losing her starting job to a very deserving junior, Tori Herrmann — Geissler stopped 46 of 47 shots. She was in goal for a 3-0 win over North Wright County on Friday.
“Sam could have shut down, and packed it in for the year,” said coach Joe Heasley about the former team MVP’s demotion, “but to her credit, she came out every day and practiced hard, and worked hard — and she got her shot in the state tournament and had two big games.”
Herrmann had a 10-0 record and excellent save percentage coming into state. She stopped 30 of 33 shots when the Elks lost to eventual state champion Minnetonka in the quarterfinals, and was credited with keeping that game from becoming a blowout.
“I was surprised (to get the starts) because Tori really played well in the first game,” said Geissler. “I”m glad I got to play …. I played really well. I think maybe I needed the break.”
Heasley had started Geissler for over 70 straight games at one point from eighth grade on, and went to two state tournaments with her.
“That was by far the toughest decision I’ve ever made,” said Heasley. “She’s been in there five years, and coming into this year she played every game but one.
“But Tori started playing well after she got going, and Sam struggled a bit this year, and we made the very tough decision to put Sam on the bench, Never in a million years did I think I would start another goalie while Sam was here.”
Geissler reflected: “I was really mad, but at the same time, I could see why (the change was made) … I think I played a little worse this year than in the past. I think maybe because we had five goalies this year, and I didn’t get as much attention, after having just two in the past.”
Heasley was very happy with Herrman’s performance against Tonka but felt Geissler “deserved a shot” in her final two games.
The Elks finished 22-9 and dropped Lakeville South to 25-4-2.
“They are are a good team, ranked in the state, but our team really pulled through,” said Brown. “Our defense played an amazing game and Sam did an awesome job.”
Scheckenghaust scored on a power-play 7:55 into the first period, scraping up the puck in a scrum at the net after the Lakeville goalie Chelsea Laden capsized unto her back.
In the second period the Elks killed off two Cougar power plays, and the first 40 seconds of a third penalty, after which Lakeville had two quick penalties to give the Elks a player advantage.
However, the Elks failed on the power play and gave up a shorthanded goal on a bang-bang play as the Cougars swiped the puck and moved to the other end where Morgan Fritz-Ward rifled a pass from the corner to Sam Moore in front of the net and Moore ripped it past Geissler for a 1-1 tie at 14:36.
The Elks regained a 2-1 lead in the third period when Brown chopped the puck into the top of the net off a nice feed from Curtis. That goal came at 7:31 and was just seconds after a power play for the Elks expired.
“Jonna made a really nice pass, and our team we had been working really hard, so it was nice to get one in the net and get the win,” said Brown. “I was so excited to get a goal, and to be able to get a game-winner like that, really really cool.”
The Elks clung to the 2-1 lead for the last 8 1/2 minutes including a Cougar power play the last 41 seconds after Curtis got called for tripping.
It was a very evenly-played game with the Elks having a 27-24 edge in faceoffs and a 22-20 edge in shots.
So the Elks played a respectable game against the state champs, then won twice, even while getting just one goal from their scoring star Jonna Curtis, who had an empty-netter and three assists in the tournament.
“I assisted on a few, but I couldn’t really get going,” said Curtis, who finished with 48 goals and 27 assists. “But that’s OK. I don’t need to score all the time.”
As long as somebody does and you win the game.