by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
You don’t get players like Jonna Curtis every year. You just enjoy them while you can. Five years of watching this little magician skate for Elk River ended Feb. 23 in an epic four-OT loss to Grand Rapids-Greenway 2-1, in the section finals. Next year, they’ll follow her at the U of New Hampshire.
Curtis, who played in five of those section title games and three state tournaments, finished as the all-time points eader in an Elk program where she is the sixth D-I recruit. Her 155 goals are second to the 157 by Jessica Pullar (Class of 20004) and her 123 assists and 278 points are Elk records.
The 5-foot-3, 130-pound athlete’s exquisite skating and stick handling are cited by coach Joe Heasley as main reasons she is a scoring machine. “Jonna can always figure out a way to get around you,” Heasley said. “She can twist herself along and get out of tight spots.”
Two equally admirable traits: Curtis has been extraordinarily durable, playing 157 straight games, and always an exemplary teammate.
“All the kids like her,” said Heasley. “For someone that good, it’s amazing how unassuming and humble she is. I’ve never had a more coachable player.”
The Elks were 99-48-10 in her career, including 3-5 at state tourneys with fourth- and fifth-place finishes, and won their power-packed NWSC twice.
For all those great numbers, Curtis has been a bit glum the last two weeks.
“I really wished we could have been down there again,” she lamented, about the state tournament, which she said was too painful to watch except for tuning in for the finals. The Elks had beaten GRG earlier, with Curtis scoring twice, and were top seeded. She was held scoreless her final game.
Curtis was not quite done with prep hockey. She had the Ms. Hockey banquet this past Sunday at RiverCentre and she will play in the Senior Classic this weekend in Blaine (all-star teams from each section).
Curtis had 13 goals as a 105-pound eighth grader and 23 in ninth grade, both on state teams. She peppered 35 in 10th grade, then 48 last year, though none in the three games at state.
This year she began with a rampage of 23 goals in 12 games before opponents decided enough is enough and started to double- and triple-team her. She finished with 36 as the Elks wound up 20-4-3.
She joins a short list of Elk luminaries in the final five for awards: Paul Martin (Mr. Hockey), Skipp Schaefbauer (Mr. Basketball), Lindsay Dietz (Miss Basketball finalist) and Anya Martin (Ms. Hockey finalist).
Curtis and the other Ms. Hockey finalists (Hannah Brodt and Lee Stecklein of Roseville, Milica McMillen of Breck and winner Hannah Brandt of Hill-Murray) skate together on Minnesota Whitecaps, dueling teams from other regions and usually winning.
“Even among that kind of competition, Jonna still rises to the top. She is one of the top scoring forwards in the country,” said coach Winnie Brodt, noting that Curtis has been invited to the USA Hockey national camp the last three years, representing Minnesota.
Curtis picked New Hampshire after being recruited by a UNH assistant who used to be with the Gophers. She likes peaceful little Durham, N.H., and the program’s potential.
After the painful career-ending loss, Curtis knows she has one huge consolation not available to most players: four more years of college hockey.
“Yes, I am really excited about that. We’ll start captains practices as soon as we get there. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
THE CURTIS SCORECARD
Personal file – Age: 18 … Family: parents, John and Dorothy; sisters, Shayla, 14, and Angel Adam, 29; brother, Matt Zemple, 27 …. Sport: hockey … Other activities: LINK, Prom Committee … Academics: 3.62 GPA … College: New Hampshire, hockey, engineering
Favorite stuff – Class: math … TV shows: “One Tree Hill” and “Lying Game” … Movie: “Bridesmaids” … Best book read lately: “Hunger Games” … Food: Olive Garden fare, especially the breadsticks … Drink: Gatorade cold blue … Team: Wild … Athletes: Winnie Brodt, Sidney Crosby … Place she’d like to visit: Australia