Hockey: Elk girls depending heavily on rookies, open Saturday vs. Wayzata

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

It’s a start-over year for Elk River-Zimmerman girls hockey, with five all-conference players, including their all-time scoring leader, graduated from a 20-4-3 team.

“We only have two kids back that have played extensive varsity time,” noted coach Joe Heasley. “We do like our young kids who have joined our team this year, and we think they will be good players.”

The Elks open at home Saturday vs. Wayzata at 7 p.m.

Kaylee Forster, junior defender (3 goals, 18 assists) is the lone all-NWSC pick back from last year’s conference champion, section runner-up team. The other starter back is Chelsey Petrich, senior forward.

Jordan McLaughlin, a budding star who scored 12 goals as a freshman, moved to Grand Rapids, said Heasley, and junior Emily Heid, a likely starter, injured her knee playing lacrosse last summer.

Returning letter winners at forward are Petrich and sophomores Abbie Canton and Julia Miller. Also vying for playing time are senior Maddie Gregersen, soph Hailey Williams, and freshmen Breanna Simon, Jeffa Gerber, Sophia Schutt and Ali Boser.

Returning letter winners on defense are Forster and Mandy Sailor, both juniors. Vying for playing time are freshmen Ali Gallus, Jocie Hohlen, and Jessica Dexheimer, and 8th-grader McKenna Wesloh.

In goal, all rookies, are senior Kim Scott and sophomores Jessica Edwards and Tiffany LaFontaine.

Most notable graduate is all-stater Jonna Curtis, whose 278 points (155 goals, 123 assists) are tops all-time for the Elks. She now plays Division I hockey at New Hampshire.

“We need to have all of our players chip in scoring goals,” said Heasley.  “We are hoping that these young kids pick up our systems and adjust to varsity action sooner rather than later.  Like every year, we are in a tough conference so these new and inexperienced players will get good competition right from the beginning.”

Heasley’s top assistant for several years, Dale Sager, left to take the head coaching job at Centennial. The staff this year includes Joel Wesloh, Kevin Esperum, and Andria Seline, the latter a new teacher in the district who played for Anoka.