by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
One lunging save by Cody Christ, one precise pass by Brandon Griffin, and one strong kick by Storm Heyer were the plays that made the difference as Elk River-Zimmerman edged Park Center 1-0 at home Tuesday evening.
In a game dominated by wind as much as anything, with the flag at Schempf Field straight out and pointing right down the middle of the field, the Elks were facing the wind the first 40 minutes and played most of it in their defensive end.
Park Center had three good opportunities early. Chris, the Elk goalkeeper, foiled one of them. Another went a couple feet high, and a third blistering kick struck the post.
“I stopped one, and another hit the post,” said Christ. “That post was my best friend at that point.”
The second half, Elk River had the wind at their backs, and Christ had a relaxing 40 minutes. The Elks were in the Pirates’ faces the whole half but were able to dent the net but once, in the 57th minute.
That’s when midfielder Griffin won the ball at midfield and spotted Heyer racing down the left sideline with Buc defender Sam Ben on his tail. Griffin’s pass led Heyer just right.
The Elk scoring leader dribbled close to the net, got a step ahead of Ben, turned his hips, and launched the ball from about 15 yards on the left side, depositing it into the side of the net.
“Beautiful shot,” said coach Aaron Lindquist.
The Elks improved to 3-1-1 in the NWSC and 6-1-2 overall, and stayed unbeaten at home at 3-0-2.
The Pirates (2-4 conference, 3-6-1 overall) gave a feisty performance including quick defenders that made it tough to get shots.
“This wasn’t an easy one. Park Center has played everybody tough this year,” said Lindquist. “It was a good game and the wind made a big difference, for sure. The second half, we knew we would get some chances, and we told the guys to shoot from anywhere they can.”
The Elks posted their fourth shutout and have given up just seven goals in nine games. They achieved this one while missing one of their veteran defenders, Trevor Riebel, who has a concussion.
“The defense is communicating a lot better and playing them a little tighter,” observed Christ, who frequently shouts directions. “The coaches are encouraging me to talk to the defense a lot … We were missing Trevor tonight, and we needed to get used to that. They did a good job.”
The Elks did some shifting in the back and middle with Riebel out. Lindquist credited subs Joe Marsh and Cullen Boe with helping shore things up.
ERZ will play at Osseo on Thursday.