Hockey: Elk girls blank Cardinals 2-0, cap long climb to .500

Samantha Westgaard (20) and teammates celebrate her goal in the first period. (Photo by Bob Burley)

Samantha Westgaard (20) and teammates celebrate her goal in the first period. (Photo by Bob Burley)

 

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Elk River girls hockey completed a long climb back to .500 by shutting out Coon Rapid 2-0 at home Saturday evening.

Samantha Westgaard and Breanna Simon scored unassisted goals and Kim Scott made 32 saves as the Elks won their fifth in a row and eighth of their last 10.

With two conference games left, the Elks are 10-10-3 overall, a big turnaround from their nadir of 2-8-3 just before Christmas. They’ve won eight of their last 10 and reversed three earlier losses.

Julia Miller (29( chases Coon Rapids' Heidi Hannula. (Photo by Bob Burley)

Julia Miller (29( chases Coon Rapids’ Heidi Hannula. (Photo by Bob Burley)

“We have a very young team and we knew coming in that the  first half of the season had a chance to be pretty rough,” said coach Joe Heasley. “We are playing a lot better now. The kids started to come around, right around Christmas time.”

Heasley sure his two captains (and only veterans) Kaylee Forster and Chelsey Petrich knew how to handle the situation.

“He told us to hang in there and keep supporting the younger players,” said Forster, junior defender, “and just have a positive attitude and keep helping them along the way. And that it will get better … We have gotten really close and the younger players are really getting better.”

This was the Elks’ fifth straight win (with just three goals allowed) since their worst outing of the season, a 9-1 loss to Blaine on Jan. 8. Blaine, oddly, lost to this same Coon Rapids (5-18) team 5-3 on Jan. 12.  “Yeah, I can’t figure that one out,” said Heasley.

Westgaard, sophomore forward, got the Elks on the board in the first period when she dug the puck out of the corner, darted to the net and beat the goalie low.

The Elks nursed that 1-0 lead until midway through the third when Simon picked up a loose puck at mid-ice with clear sailing to the goal. The  freshman forward juked the goalie to her left and fired into the right corner.

Elk River's Breanna Simon scored after faking the goalie out of position. (Photo by Bob Burley)

Elk River’s Breanna Simon scored after faking the goalie out of position. (Photo by Bob Burley)

 

The Elks were 5-for-5 on penalty kill, foiling three in the final period. The Elks had just a 36-32 edge in shots.

Scott, a senior, made 32 stops for her third shutout in a row and fourth overall. She’s had two against North Metro, and one each vs. Champlin Park and Coon Rapids. Ali Weber stopped 34 of 36 for the Cardinals.

Scott and sophomore Jessica Edwards have shared goalie duties. Edwards has started against most of the top teams.

Maddie Gregerson (right), one of four Elk seniors spotlighted on Senior Night, battled Alyssa Hansen for the puck. (Photo by Bob Burley)

Maddie Gregerson (15), one of four Elk seniors spotlighted on Senior Night, battled Alyssa Hansen for the puck. (Photo by Bob Burley)

“They are both playing well right now,” said Heasley. “Whomever we put out there, we know is going to keep us in the game.”

Elks are 6-7-2 in conference and have beaten three teams they lost to previously, the other two being Armstrong/Cooper (a 14-7-2 team) and  Champlin Park (12-11).

This was Senior Night, with a small group of four seniors honored — Petrich, Scott, Taylor Gautheir and Maddie Gregerson.

The Elks will close the regular season next week vs. Maple Grove home Tuesday and Andover there Saturday.

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