The Elk River skaters gave Duluth East a scare in the Section 7AA semifinals on Saturday, trailing the state’s top-ranked team by just one goal through the third period.
But the Greyhounds and goalie Dylan Parker held off the Elks and got an empty-netter with a minute left for a 4-2 decision, with Parker atoning for a goof that let the Elks make it a tight game at Armsol Arena in Duluth.
Duluth East (26-1) will duel Andover in the finals Thursday, trying for their fourth straight trip to state. In all four of those seasons, East has ended the Elks’ season.
The Elks (16-9-2) were down 3-1 after one period, but Anders Franke stopped 16 Greyhound shots in the second period and Jered McLaughlin scored an unusual goal.
With East in the power play, Parker left the net to pursue a puck into the corner and try center it to a teammate. McLaughlin picked off the pass and had an open field to the net for the shorthanded goal.
“I was just trying to move the puck up and I threw too soft of a pass,” Parker said to the Duluth News Tribune. “It didn’t get off my stick the way I wanted it to, but I definitely shouldn’t have made the pass in the first place.”
Duluth East had a great start. The Greyhounds were up 1-0 just 26 seconds into the game on a Trevor Olson goal, and 2-0 at the 5:59 mark when defenseman Meirs Moore flicked one over Franke’s shoulder.
The Elks struck back at 9:46 when Jacob Jaremko stole the puck in East’s zone and sent a shot that Mitchell Kierstad deflected past Parker, who has a microscopic 1.23 goals-against-average. Ryan Lundgren regained a two-goal lead for East at 13:16.
Moore got the empty-netter, too, for the Greyhounds.
The Elks finished 16-9-2, including 4-1 after longtime coach Tony Sarsland resigned when informed by the school that he was under an investigation. (He has since rescinded the resignation). Ben Gustafson, the JV coach, has been interim head coach.
Elks assistant coach Paul Berning, interviewed by the News Tribune, said he is pleased with how the team played in those five games.
“These kids were thrown a curveball a few games ago,” Berning said. “They never missed a beat and played today’s game for Sarsland. Every game we played, we played for him. I’m so proud of the seniors and the leadership on this team.”
Parker made 24 saves and Jake Randolph made three assists for Duluth East.
Franke stopped 27 of 30 shots in the final game of his four-year tenure. Also playing their final game with the Elks were Taylor Bryan, Ryan Heid, McLaughlin, Garrett Aldrich, Adam Watzke, and Mitch Kierstad.