by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
A four-goal rally in the third period, including a pair of highlight-reel shots by Jake Jaremko, kept Elk River’s hockey season alive with a 4-1 win over the Andover Huskies on Tuesday evening at home.
The Elks, after trailing 1-0 with 12 minutes left against a team they had beaten twice in conference, advanced to the Section 7AA finals. They’ll face Grand Rapids on Saturday in Duluth.
Andrew Zerban and Grant Bunker (empty-netter) also scored and Maclean Berglove made 21 saves for the Elks (16-10) while Tyler Tomberlin scored for the Huskies (12-12-2) before a full house at Elk River Arena for the season’s final prep hockey game there.
“We knew we had been playing well, and we would eventually get in our power play,” said Jaremko, asked if the team was starting to get nervous.
The Elks finally got a power play opportunity with 11:57 left. Jaremko knotted the score 43 seconds later when he chased down a rebound and, with a slingshot motion, while skating away from the net, and from almost directly to the side, fired the puck through a tiny opening above the goalie’s shoulder and into the upper back corner.
“The goalie kicked it out and I went around the net and got it, and shot up top,” said Jaremko. “He didn’t really leave me much room.”
The play started with a Wyatt Ege slap shot from out front that was blocked by Huskie goalie Chase Perry, who stopped 17 of 20.
“He is a real good goalie,” said Jaremko. “He is going to Ann Arbor (Olympic development) next year.”
Zerban gave the Elks a 2-1 lead with 5:57 left as he took a perfect crossing pass from Blake Hillman and drilled it low into the net from about eight feet away.
The Elks got the clincher with 53 seconds on a creative shot by Jaremko from behind the net, using the goalie’s back for a bank shot like a pool player, after Perry blocked a shot by Reggie Lutz.
“He made a really good save and I got the rebound, and he was down in the butterfly and I just threw it off his back,” said Jaremko. “He gave me a little room to shoot … It hit him square in the back. Sometimes the breaks go your way.”
The empty-netter by Bunker with 11 seconds left gave the Elks a final 4-1 win in a game very much in doubt until Jaremko’s second goal in the final minute.
Jaremko, a sophomore with 14 goals, has been a thorn to Andover this year. He got the game-winner in a 6-5 overtime win Jan. 15 with a goal from the side very similar to his first one in the section game.
The game was scoreless until Tomberlin got one past Berglove, who’d been dumped to the ice in a collision, with 1:08 left in the second period.
That’s the only goal the Elks have yielded in the last three games.
“It starts with our forwards back checking and working hard,” said Berglove, asked about the recent defensive success, “and our defenders locking their guys up, and then I do the rest … They’re doing their job and making me look good.”
Berglove said it seems like the team is “peaking at the right time” and has a good chance to get past Grand Rapids, too, “if we play like we did tonight.”
In other section games Tuesday, top-seeded Duluth East hammered St. Michael-Albertville 15-0, No. 2 Grand Rapids won 6-2 over St. Francis, and No. 4 Cloquet-Esko-Carlton ousted Forest Lake 6-2.
On Saturday at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, it will be CEC (16-8-2) vs. Duluth East (22-4) at noon, followed by the Elks (16-10) vs. Grand Rapids (18-4-3) at approximately 2:30. The finals will be played Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7:30 p.m.
The Elks lost to Grand Rapids 3-2 in overtime at the Edina Invitational in late December.