by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River wrapped up the regular season with a 7-0 rout of the Armstrong Falcons at home Saturday evening, and now looks ahead to sectionals as the No. 3 seed.
Andrew Zerban delivered two goals and Tim Sanford, Ben Johnson, Wyatt Ege, Briggs Leadens, and Jacob Jaremko one apiece as the Elks secured third place in the Northwest Suburban Conference.
Jaremko, Reggie Lutz and Ege made two assists each, and Blake Hillman, Tim Sanford and Noah Halbeck one each.
The Elks had a 52-14 edge in shots with Maclean Berglove in the nets for the team’s second straight shutout and fifth overall.
Blaine finished 16-1, Centennial 13-2-2, Elk River 13-4, Maple Grove 12-5 and Andover 9-7-2 in conference, with the other five teams under .500.
“We’ve had a couple games where we would like a do-over,” said coach Gordie Roberts, referring to a 9-1 loss to Benilde-St. Margaret’s and 9-3 to Blaine in the last seven games, “but for the most part, we have been competitive in games that we have lost.”
The Elks (15-10 overall) blanked Champlin Park 2-0 and then Armstrong to close the conference, after consecutive losses to Blaine and Centennial (3-0). They will host Andover in the first round of Section 7AA on Tuesday.
“The last two games, definitely, we’ve played defense really well and the goal tending has been solid,” said Roberts. “Going into the playoffs, you want to be playing well without the puck. We are getting a bit more from our forecheck to our defensive zone. We would like our power play to go a little better. But we are seeing some good things, after the tough loss to Blaine.”
Berglove has a 2.71 goals-against-average and .889 save percentage, stats that were blown up a bit by the two drubbings.
“Maclean has had back-to-back shutouts, and gave up only two goals to Centennial; the other was an empty-netter,” Roberts noted. “So that’s two goals in three games, after a tough night in Blaine. He’s showed some good perseverance and mental toughness.”
The Elks’ have no big scorer in particular but good balance, with the top five being Jaremko with 14 goals and 16 assists for 30 points, Springman 17-10-27, Sanford 15-12-27, Ege 4-19-23 and Zerban 12-9-21.
“We have a young team, only three seniors,” said Roberts. “A lot of guys have had good individual games, and we’ve seen our seniors grow and be top players, which you need. And we are pretty healthy now. Peter Jones has been a little sick; we’ll see what his status is next week.”
Honored at Senior Night were Sanford, Ege and defender Cooper Bleyhl, along with manager Sydney Johnson.
The Elks have beaten Andover twice, by 4-1 and 6-5 in overtime. Roberts noted that the Huskies have “a lot of seniors” and a good goalie likely to go D-I so the Elks will need to be clicking offensively.