The Elk River skaters were 10.5 seconds away from the section finals but wound up losing to Grand Rapids 2-1 in overtime on Saturday, ending their season.
Avery Peterson of the Thunder Hawks knotted the score with that scant amount of time remaining in regulation. After a scoreless eight-minute overtime, Peterson drilled another goal 2:54 into the second overtime at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
The game was scoreless until just 2:34 remained in the third period when Chase Springman got the Elks on the board. Tim Sanford picked up the puck at center ice and led a 2-on-1 advantage, feeding Springman with a perfect pass just outside the crease. Springman, who had raced ahead of defenseman Jake Bischoff, deposited his team-high 18th goal in the right corner with 2:34 to play.
“We were getting a lot of chances — we could have three goals (in the third period),” Peterson told the Duluth News-Tribune. “It kind of killed us when they buried their one good chance. But we thought with all the pressure we put on, we’d get a goal.”
He added: “The hockey gods definitely didn’t want us to lose that game. That was a gift.”
The tying goal was a rebound by Peterson after Jake Bischoff worked a give-and-go to create an opportunity in the slot. Elk goalie Maclean Berglove made 16 of his 36 saves in the third period but couldn’t stop that one.
The Elks almost got the game-winner in the first OT when Sanford, on a breakaway, back-handed a shot past goalie Hunter Shepard, but it hit the crossbar.
Peterson’s 27th goal of the season, the game-winner, was almost impossible to block, a dart over Berglove’s shoulder from 10 feet away that struck the bottom of the crossbar and caromed into the net, Jonah Bischofff set it up wilt a back-handed pass to Peterson from the back wall.
Grand Rapids was never penalized in the game. The Elks had three infractions and killed all three penalties.
The Elks had almost 90 percent success for the season on killing penalties, 6-for-6 in the two playoff games.
Grand Rapids enjoyed a 38-26 edge in shots. Berglove stopped 36 of 38 and Shepard 25 of 26.
Elk River’s final 16-11 record includes two overtime losses to Grand Rapids, the other 3-2 at the Edina holiday tournament.
Grand Rapids (19-4-3) faces Duluth East in the finals Thursday.