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Elk River hands Grand Rapids its first loss of the season

By Will Jarvis, SportsEngine, 12/17/16, 3:15PM CST


The Elks scored three unanswered goals to defeat the Thunderhawks 3-1.

Elk River's Connor Bizal buries a pass from teammate Jack Perbix (12) to score the game-winning goal late in the third period Saturday at Braemar Arena. Elk River defeated Grand Rapids 3-1. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine

Connor Bizal’s late third period goal propelled Elk River, ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, to a 3-1 win over previously undefeated Grand Rapids (7-1) on Saturday night in the Edina Holiday Classic.

Elks forward Jack Perbix flew past a Grand Rapids defenseman on the rush, then slid a perfect pass across the slot to Bizal. The goal, at 9:27 of the third period, was the junior’s fifth of the season.

“If I missed that I probably would have had to leave the ice in embarrassment,” Bizal joked. “It was good team play there.”

Jax Murray added an empty-netter with 1:03 left in the game. 

The win came one night after a 5-0 loss to Edina, a game Bizal called a “reality check.”

Grand Rapids struck first on the powerplay. Jack Burnson’s shot from the point hit the post and bounced directly to Blake McLaughlin, who tapped in an easy goal at 7:45 of the opening period.

The Elks (5-1) responded a few minutes later when Nate Horn deflected a point shot, recovered his own rebound and fired past Thunderhawks goalie Zach Stejskal.

Elk River outshot the No. 3-2A Thunderhawks 24-15. The matchup was the only time the two Class 2A, Section 7 opponents will face each other until a possible postseason meeting. 

“Anytime you play a section opponent, the game is a little more magnified with the head-to-head factor and the seeding factor,” Elk's coach Ben Gustafson said. “Obviously that’s a nice one to get.”

Both teams finished the weekend with 2-1 records.

Grand Rapids' goaltender Zach Stejskal stops a scoring attempt from Elk River's Griffin Young during the third period. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine

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Elk River celebrates an empty-net goal that pushed them ahead 3-1 Saturday night at Braemar Arena in Edina. The Elks won two of three games at this weekend's 35th annual Edina Holiday Classic. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine

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