Gush over a season-opening victory? Not Elk River boys’ hockey coach Gordie Roberts. Not even against defending state champion Edina.
The Elks defended their home ice Nov. 30, defeating Edina 3-1 and outshooting the Hornets 20-4 in the third period. It seemed like the ideal start for a program hoping to rise in the second year of Roberts’ tenure. But he preferred a more measured approach.
“Now, I’ve been around the block a few times,” Roberts said. “It was a great win but let’s talk January 1st. I’m trying not to get too high or too low, and that’s what I’m telling our players.”
Multiple story lines made this game more than just a season opener. The Hornets are reloading after winning the state title last season with a senior-dominated team. The Elks are starting their second season with Roberts, who replaced the colorful, controversial and successful Tony Sarsland. Behind the benches, Roberts matched wits with Edina coach Curt Giles, a fellow North Stars defenseman during seven seasons in the 1980s.
After a scoreless first period, Elk River’s Ben Johnson scored goals both early and late to give his team a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
At 12:05 of the third period, the Elks’ Jake Jaremko scored a goal that “allowed the coaches a sigh of relief because that gave us a little more separation,” Roberts said.
The Elks, who struggled against Edina in a scrimmage about two weeks ago, did not stop playing aggressive hockey. They outshot Edina 20-4 in the third period.
“Part of that was us blocking shots,” Roberts said. “And part of it was the kids playing with urgency. You want to be defense-first to a point when protecting a lead.”
Roberts credited defensemen Matt Kiersted and Dylan Bouten for effectively moving the puck against Edina’s strong forecheckers. And the second line of Johnson, Peter Jones and Alex Schwab produced two of the team’s three goals. Elk River goaltender Mac Berglove stopped 32 of 33 shots faced.
The first line of Jaremko, Andrew Zerban and Chase Springman produced a goal and “proved they can skate with anyone,” Roberts said.
“Last year we struggled to beat the top teams so it’s always nice to get a win like this,” Roberts said.
The Elks’ losses last season included games against state tournament qualifiers Edina, Centennial and Wayzata, plus Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Blaine.
“This was a good game as far as the kids gaining confidence.”
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574