by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
In the prep coaching debut of Gordie Roberts, the Elk River Elks came within 48 seconds of tying a strong Wayzata team Saturday night but the Trojans pulled out a 2-1 win at Elk River Arena.
Roberts, the former North Star defenseman and a USA and Hockey Hall of Famer, nonetheless called it “a good first game” for the Elks.
“There were a lot more positives than negatives,” he reflected. “Wayzata was playing its fifth game. We got better as the game went along.”
What did his team show that he liked?
“I thought our defense handled their forecheck pretty well, and we were patient, and moved the puck up the ice, and Andrew (Zerban) scored a nice goal. Our best players played well, and our third and fourth lines contributed and competed. Our goaltending was real solid.”
Wayzata improved to 4-1 as Jack Sorensen scored his second goal of the game with 48 seconds left in the overtime. The Trojans rushed the net after a turnover and the senior forward rifled the puck past Maclean Berglove.
Zerban, who led the Elks with 22 goals last year, tied the score in the second period with a breakaway, one-on-one goal after stealing an errant pass at the blue line. The junior forward juked past Trojan goalie Aaron Dingman and backhanded the Elks first goal of the year.
A crowd of about 500 ringed the rink in what was Roberts’ first experience coaching a high school team. Roberts, 54, who played for several NHL teams including the North Stars in a 15-year career, has been an assistant coach for Phoenix of the NHL and for Hamline of the MIAC.
Of his first high school game, he assessed: “It was a great atmosphere for a Saturday night, with the student cheering section, and parents there for both teams. I enjoyed the whole thing. The people seemed to be having a good time (watching).”
The Elks had a 27-20 edge in shots, with Dingman 26-for-27 and Berglove 18-for-20 in the nets. Each team had only one power play although the Elks were in penalty kill for over three minutes in the first period.
“There weren’t many penalties or power plays tonight, just five on five hockey,” said O’Leary, “and Elk River is big and strong, with some good skill guys. We just wanted to make them play hard the whole 58 minutes, and we came out on top.”
The Elks had both penalties within 40 seconds in the first period and played 3-on-5 for 1:20 but held off the Trojans with Austin Larson and Jake Jaremko alternating out front, and Blake Hillman, Cooper Bleyhl and Jack Geissler alterating down low.
But soon after the power play expired, Wayzata scored an unusual goal. A shot by Chad Olson was stopped by Berglove a couple feet in front of the net but the puck slipped between the goalie’s legs and was laying a couple inches in front of the net. Sorensen swooped between goalie and easily tapped it in.
In the OT, the Elks had some chances — a wraparound shot by Zerban and a slap shot by Hillman were stopped by Dingman, and Chase Springman had a chance for a breakaway shot before two Trojans caught him just before he could shoot.
Berglove made two overtime saves before Sorensen settled the issue.
“We were a little sloppy all game, to be honest,” said O’Leary, “but we sharpened up real well in the overtime, and got some nice chances and ended up burying one.”
The Elks will host Coon Rapids in the conference opener on Thursday.