Erikur Arnason of Greenway made 37 saves in Team Northwest's 4-2 victory over Great Plains on Sunday. Photo by Helen Nelson
Erikur Arnason has the sort of personality that could put a rabid badger at ease.
A goaltender with an eternally sunny disposition, it has been Arnason’s people (not dangerous animal handling) skills that have been put to the test much of the fall in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League.
“We were all a little unsure of it to start,” Arnason said about the Elite League’s experimental plan of cutting its traditional number of goaltenders and having the smaller group rotate through different teams each week. “But I think it is really starting to work out.
“I know everyone is enjoying meeting a new team every weekend. It’s been a blast, really.”
Arnason, a senior from Greenway, entered the Elite League’s second to last regular season weekend with a 3-5-1 record, .884 save percentage and 3.78 goals-against average. Those numbers put Arnason in the middle of the pack of a group of nine of Minnesota’s top high school goaltenders.
Not bad for a kid few outside of northern Minnesota had heard of before this fall.
“I watched a lot of games last year up north and I don’t know if I ever saw a better goalie,” Team North coach Pat Guyer said. “So I knew he deserved and warranted a tryout.
“It is a good feeling to see him doing so well.”
Erikur Arnason of Greenway races out of the goal to freeze the puck in Team Northwest's 4-2 victory over Great Plains. Photo by Helen Nelson
Arnason stopped 37 of 39 shots in a 4-2 victory over Great Plains at the Brainerd Civic Center Arena on Sunday, Oct. 16. He stopped 47 of 50 shots on Saturday playing for Great Plains in its 3-2 loss to Team Southwest.
“The last few weekends he has been really good,” said Guyer, a Coleraine native who is a former longtime Greenway coach. “Where he has played, and where the (Greenway) program has been, the opportunity probably wouldn’t have represented itself.
“I don’t know if I put in a word as much as I said he is a good player and he deserves a tryout. He had to do the rest of it, and he proved himself down at the tryout.”
Facing a severe shortage of players, Greenway’s hockey program was on the verge of folding a few years ago. There was serious talk about merging with neighboring Grand Rapids. Arnason was one of the Raiders players who decided to stick it out through Greenway’s lean years if fielding a team meant saving the program.
“We haven’t had a JV team since my freshman year,” Arnason said. “But we’re getting one back this year. We can all keep our heads high for what we have done for the program. And we’re also looking to have a good year this year.”
For now, Arnason is enjoying every minute of every game -- no matter the team to which he is assigned.
“I’m always asked, ‘Which team do I like playing for the best?’ ” Arnason said. “And I can’t answer it. It’s just too much fun.”
1. Jordan Gross, Team Northwest
The 5-foot-10, 168-pound junior scored twice on a laser-sighted wrist shots that slid through heavy traffic in the crease area and past Great Plains goaltender Dylan Parker of Duluth East. The smooth-skating Gross was all over the ice, rushing the puck, breaking up plays and dishing out hits.
2. Erikur Arnason, Team Northwest
Elite League goalies rarely make their way into the Three Stars because of the league’s goaltender-unfriendly run-and-gun style of play, but Arnason earned his spot with a 37-save performance that included some aggressive poke checks and challenging of Great Plains’ shooters.
3. Alex Strand, Great Plains
Strand kept Great Plains within striking distance with a high-speed burst that got him through the Team Northwest defense. He finished the play with a deke and a goal into an empty net.
Junior defenseman Jordan Gross of Maple Grove scored twice in the second period as part of a three-goal flurry the helped push Team Northwest past Great Plains 4-2 in an Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League matchup on Sunday, Oct. 16, at Brainerd Civic Center Arena.
Gross, who has committed to play at Notre Dame, scored both his goals on low, hard wrist shots from the high slot. His second goal came with 3 minutes, 26 second remaining in the second period and was the last of three-unanswered Team Northwest goals that turned a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 advantage.
Christian Horn of Benilde-St. Margaret’s opened the scoring for Team Northwest (8-7-3) in the second period. Horn and Benilde-St. Margaret’s teammate Grant Besse each had a goal and an assist.
Avery Peterson of Grand Rapids scored early in the second period for Great Plains (0-17-1), and Alex Strand of Roseau had a the lone goal of the third period on a nifty solo dash through the Team Northwest defense.
Team Northwest’s Erikur Arnason of Greenway made 37 saves to earn the victory. Dylan Parker of Duluth East made 47 saves for Great Plains.