by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River came within two minutes of ending Duluth East’s dynasty in Section 7AA hockey but couldn’t hold on, and a season of high hopes ended just short of the state tournament.
The Elks lost the championship game 3-2 in overtime at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Off the Elks’ only penalty of the game, the Greyhounds tied the score with 2:10 left on Alex Spencer’s power play goal, then won 2:08 into overtime when Nick Altman drilled a shot past Mac Berglove into the far side of the net.
The Elks, who beat Duluth East 3-2 there in December, during a 5-0 start when they also beat state champion Edina and earned the No. 1 ranking briefly, finished 20-7.
Duluth East (21-6-1) captured its sixth consecutive section title, all on their home ice, and ended the Elks season for the fifth time in this six years. The Elks lost to the Greyhounds in the finals in 2009, 2010 and now 2014, and in the semifinals in 2011 and 2012.
Berglove (27 saves) and the Elk River defenders did a stellar job of shutting down the Greyhounds — who had scored 33 goals their previous six games — until the perennial champions, on the brink of defeat, broke loose like they always do in section finals.
Elk River took a 2-1 lead after a the second period where the scoring came in the first and last minutes.
Elk junior Reggie Lutz punctured the net just 15 seconds after face-off on a rush to the net with Chase Springman and Jack Geissler.
The 1-0 lead stood until Bryton Laxta scored with 36 seconds left, on the third shot of a flurry that moved Berglove back and forth.
Dramatically, Elk junior Jake Jaremko regained the lead just 14 seconds later with a laser from the top of the circle that whizzed past Gunnar Howg and just under the crossbar.
In the third period, the Elks took only two shots, but held the lead almost to the end as the action grew more and more intense. At one point Berglove made three saves in about five seconds on a one-two punch off a breakaway and then a follow-up shot.
However, Duluth East had its first power play opportunity with 3:51 left when Dylan Bouten was called for cross-checking. Berglove and the Elks almost rode this one out, but with 20 seconds left in the power play, Spencer slipped one in from close range, again on the third shot of a flurry, with 2:10 on the clock.
In the overtime, Bouten just missed on a wrist shot before the Greyhounds got the puck to the other end and kept it there until Altman got the puck in the corner and ripped it past the goalie from the side.
It was the 20th goal for Altman, but two guys who seldom score got them to overtime as Spencer has four goals and Lutzke just two.
Duluth East 3, Elk River 2
Elk River 0-2-0-0—2
Duluth East 0-1-1-1—3
First period — No scoring.
Second period — (1) ER: Reggie Lutz (Chase Springman, Jack Geissler), 0:15 … (2) DE: Bryton Lutzka (Jack Kolar, Nick Altmann), 16:24 … (3) ER: Jacob Jaremko (Springman, Matt Kiersted), 16:37.
Third period — (4) DE: Alex Spencer (Ash Altmann, Alex Trapp), 14:50 (pp).
Overtime — (5) DE: Nick Altmann (Kolar, Phil Beaulieu), 2:08.
Saves — Gunnar Howg, DE, 23; MacLean Berglove, ER, 27.