by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River-Zimmerman’s boys soccer season ended with a marathon overtime and double shootout loss to St. Michael-Albertville on Saturday, the Knights prevailing 7-6 in the shootouts after 100 minutes of regulation and overtimes ended 1-1.
The Elks, who had won an overtime game 6-5 over St. Cloud Tech in the quarterfinals, finished the season 9-9 while the Knights (12-4-2) advanced to the finals.
“Elk River pushes harder than any team we’ve played,” said Knights coach Darak Dewey. “They work so hard, that even though we had the advantage with speed, we didn’t have any openings to do anything.”
The game was scoreless until Kaleb Orrock got the Elks on the board in the 60th minute with a shot from 10 yards to the right of the net that Knight goalie Cole Christian got his hands on but the ball glanced off him and into the net.
But STMA puled even on a brisk shot from the right side that zipped over Elk goalie Jamie Benz’s reach.
Two 10-minute overtimes went scoreless. In the second, Benz made a couple of point-blank saves. Elk scoring leader Ryan Ness had a good opportunity in the second OT but his shot was about a foot too high.
In the shootout, each team made four of five in the first session. Each team then picked a second group of five guys, with the rules changed so the first team that takes a lead wins. The Elks missed their third shot, and Peter Bourget got the game-winner for the Knights.
“Both teams crated opportunities and we had our chances,” said Elk coach Aaron Lindquist. “The defenses battled each other back and forth. We had some good matchups.”
About the shootout, he said, “When it goes that long and you get that deep, anything can happen. Unfortunately it ended up the way it did.”
Much pressure was placed on Jamie Benz, a small (5-foot-4) sophomore who was having a good season at forward before being pressed into goalie duty when Cody Christ was injured late in the season.
“Jamie played great. He kept us in the game,” said Lindquist.
Benz had a tough night against Tech but came back strong against STMA.
“It wasn’t just me. Our defenders were working their butts off today,” he said.
Benz said he’d been a goalie for several shootouts during TRSA youth hockey play.
“I never lost one before,” he said, eyes misty.
In the shootut, Orrock, Ness, Max Riebel, Storm Heyer, Benz, and Jordan Vasseur made their shots, while Adam Fordahl’s was blocked by Christian and Trevor Riebel’s was high.
About the season, Benz said: “It’s been great. I am so happy with the season. It’s unfortunate that we had to see it end here.”
LIndquist, co-head coach with Tom Olson, had the reins Saturday as Olson was absent to be with his wife, who had surgery.