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Stillwater pulls away from Elk River in clash of top-ranked teams

By Loren Nelson, SportsEngine, 12/30/16, 4:00PM CST


The Ponies scored three third period goals to defeat the Elks 4-1 at the Sports Authority Holiday Classic.

Stillwater celebrates its second goal, scored by Mason Bartosh (37) early in the third period Friday night at the St. Louis Park Rec Center. Stillwater defeated Elk River 4-1. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine

All that talk about Stillwater being a one-line team just might true after all.

At least that was the case on Friday night in the Ponies’ much-hyped showdown with Elk River, a matchup of the state’s two top-ranked teams in Class 2A in the latest coaches' poll.

Senior Matthew Stanton, yes, Matthew Stanton, was on the ice for all of the crucial goals in No. 1-2A Stillwater’s 4-1 triumph over No. 2-2A Elk River in front of a near-capacity crowd at the St. Louis Park Rec Center in the finale of the Sports Authority Holiday Classic.

While Stillwater senior forwards T.J. Sagissor, Luke Manning and Noah Cates get most of the attention – and the bulk of the goals – for the Ponies, Stanton proved he has all the tools to be a top-caliber player, too.

Stanton opened the scoring on a perfectly placed upper corner laser, added a clutch deflection goal midway through the third period and just missed on notching his first career hat trick when he couldn’t get a handle on the puck in the crease a few minutes later. But his best play of the night might have been the nifty bit of stickhandling and pinpoint pass he put on the stick of Mason Bartosh.

“I wasn’t expecting it to come in,” said Bartosh, a senior forward, about the pass that whipped across the width of the ice, knifing through seemingly all five of Elk River’s skaters. “But he got it through all those sticks. When it got on my stick I was thinking, ‘It’s a shame if I don’t put it in. I’ve got to bury it.’ ”

Bartosh typically plays on the third line. Stanton on the second line. Overlapping shifts had them on the ice together for that moment of instant chemistry that put Stillwater ahead 2-1 early in the third. As for the Ponies’ top trio, they where held in check until the closing minutes, when Sagissor completed the scoring with an empty net goal.

So, after Stanton’s career performance, do the Poinies have a new pecking order?

“Uh, I don’t know,” Bartosh said, deftly dodging the loaded question. “We’ve got a good No. 1 line.”

Stanton wasn’t quite so shy about laying claim, along with converted defenseman Austin Murr and center Michael Kaufman, to top-line status.

“Definitely,” Stanton said with a laugh.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, the lanky Stanton has eight goals and 12 assists this season, nearly matching his totals (11 goals, 12 assists) for all of last season.

“He’s got a really good shot,” Elk River coach Ben Gustafson said. “He had a couple of chances, and he buried them.”

Elk River (10-2-0) had played a more difficult early season schedule and figured to have an advantage in depth. But other than Nate Horn’s second-period goal, the Elks couldn’t find a way to beat Stillwater goaltender Seth Eisele despite numerous point-blank chances.

“That was two really good hockey teams, and it was a great atmosphere here tonight,” Gustafson said. “They scored on the chances they had and we didn’t.”

Stillwater senior captain Noah Cates dishes out a hit during a forecheck in the second period Friday. The Ponies defeated Elk River 4-1. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine

First Report

Senior forward Matthew Stanton was a one-man demolition team, scoring twice and adding an assist to lead Stillwater past Elk River 4-1 on Friday in a matchup of the state’s No. 1 and 2-ranked teams at the St. Louis Park Rec Center.

Stillwater, unbeaten and top-ranked in Class 2A in the state coaches’ poll, took control of a tight game in the third period courtesy of the play of Stanton, a second-line winger. Stanton, who had scored the lone goal of the first period, fed Mason Bartosh for a goal that put the Ponies ahead 2-1 early in the third. Stanton then scored again midway through the third when he parked his lanky frame in front of the net and deflected a shot past Elk River goaltender Ben Meyers.

T.J. Sagissor added an empty net goal for the Ponies, who improved to 11-0 after going unbeaten in the eight-team Holiday Hockey Classic.

Nate Horn scored the lone goal for No. 2-2A Elk River (10-2).

Meyers finished with 14 saves for the Elks. Stillwater goaltender Seth Eisele made 26 saves.

Stillwater's T.J. Sagisor chases after Elk River forward Jack Perbix during a transition in the third period. Stillwater defeated Elk River 4-1 at St. Louis Park Rec Center. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine

Stillwater senior Matthew Stanton (9) leads the charge back to the bench after scoring in the second period. Stanton finished with two goals and an assist in the Ponies' 4-1 victory over Elk River. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine

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