by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River-Zimmerman has made five state trips in girls hockey but No. 6 has proven agonizingly elusive.
For the third straight year, the Elks lost a close game in the Section 7AA finals, this one to conference rival Andover as the Huskies earned their first trip 3-1, capped by an empty-netter, Thursday evening at Fogerty Arena in Blaine.
“We knew going in they’ve got a good goaltender,” said Elk coach Joe Heasley. “She is tough. But we didn’t get enough shots on net, either. We fired the puck toward net but we missed, and didn’t get enough on net to get some rebounds.”
The Huskies defensive tandems — McKenzie Sederberg with Langlie, and Rebecca Voltin with Taylor Hartje — permitted few strong shots on net, and their standout goaltender Maddie Rooney, a junior committed to Minnesota-Duluth, stopped 21 of 22.
Abbie Canton had the goal for the Elks, who finished 14-9-5.
That includes an 0-2-1 slate against Andover. The Elks lost to the Huskies 5-2 on Dec. 7 but their section hopes were buoyed by a 0-0 tie against them in the last game before sectionals. In three games against Rooney and the Huskies the Elks managed just three goals.
Heasley regards the Elks and Huskies as “pretty even teams” but allowed, “They must have been the better team tonight.”
Andover had never gone to state in girls or boys hockey. The Huskies (16-9-3), who moved into 7AA this year after toiling in a tougher section previously, knew they had a good chance to be the first.
“We were really confident we could go out and be our best and go to state,” said Langlie, senior captain. “We were definitely nervous, but really confident. We stayed positive all week in our practices and in the whole section finals and we really worked well together.”
Lexi Turpin, Abbie Turpin and Mikayla Goodin (empty-netter) scored for the Huskies, who had a 29-22 edge in shots.
“The girls were very excited, probably a little too excited. We definitely had some nerves going,” said Andover coach Melissa Sailor. “But we were able to settle down and get a couple goals.”
The Elks lost in four overtimes to Grand Rapids-Greenway 2-1 in the 2012 finals and to Forest Lake 3-2 last year. They earned another shot last week with shutouts of St. Francis-North Branch 3-0 and Grand Rapids-Greenway 5-0.
Last year, the Elks were 12-13-3, and they improved by a few games this year, with just three seniors (and six freshmen) among the top 20.
“We got a lot of kids coming back,” Heasley said. “I liked the progress we saw from last year to this year. It’s a process.”
Seniors Kaylee Forster, Emily Heid, and Mandy Sailor were part of the state fifth-place team as freshmen, but fell a game short the past three years.
“They have been great teammates, great leaders, always helping the younger kids, and I never had a problem with any of them,” said Heasley in tribute.
Lexi Turpin, Huskie sophomore defender, delivered the first goal at 14:50 of the first period, after taking a pass by Jordan Olsen from behind the net and firing the puck past Michaela Gould.
“Jordan saw me wide open in front of the net and passed to me and I shot, and, it was so amazing! So exciting,” said Turpin about her third goal of the season. “It went right under her glove and above her pad.”
The first four penalties of the game were against the Elks, and Andover capitalized on the third of those with Abbie Turpin scoring on the rebound of a teammate’s slap shot, at 10:41 of the second period.
Down 2-0, the Elks finally went on a power play of their own and Canton got them on the board with a tap-in just inside the post from a couple feet away on a scramble at the net.
That one got past Rooney but she stopped three close-range shots by the Elks late in the period, by Canton a 2-on-1 break, by Drea Westgaard and by Breanna Simon.
In the third period, the Andover defenders effectively defused most Elk advances as the Huskies held their lead and got the clincher with 24 seconds left when Goodin let fly from the blue line for the empty-netter.
Gould, capping a solid sophomore year in nets, stopped 26 of 28 shots.