by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Andrew Zerban, one of the veteran leaders of the No. 7 ranked Elk River hockey team, has left the squad to play juniors hockey, coach Gordie Roberts confirmed Thursday.
Zerban, a senior and third-year starter, was one of three primary scorers for the Elks (12-3) with 12 goals and 10 assists, playing on the second line. He had 13 goals as a junior.
“There wasn’t much consulting. Andrew just made up his mind,” said Roberts. “In a perfect world, it would have been nice for him to finish the season and then go.”
Zerban left school to join the Fargo Force of the USHL. The Force have a 5-24 record at mid-season.
The Elks’ 4-1 win over Stillwater at the televised Hockey Day Minnesota outdoor game this past Saturday turned out to be Zerban’s last game with the Elks. He scored the second goal of that win.
Roberts said Zerban tried out with Waterloo over the summer and was advised by that club to return to his high school team, but Fargo obtained his rights in a recent trade.
“All of a sudden, Fargo got more aggressive and must had made a new pitch why they need him now,” said the coach.
Roberts added: “I’m not going to knock him for it. This is a decision he and his family made.”
Roberts said the team has to treat it the same as a player getting injured, with teammates stepping up and someone else getting a chance to play more.
The Elks, 12-3 with nine games left in the regular season, are hoping to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2005. They are one of the top three contenders in their section along with Duluth East (whom they beat 3-2) and Grand Rapids (to whom they lost 3-2).