Elk River's Jax Murray (14), Nate Horn (24) and Max Michaelis (27) celebrate the Elks' third goal in Saturday's 4-1 victory over Duluth East. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
Elk River senior defenseman Nick Perbix drives to the net with the puck during the second period Saturday. Perbix scored one goal as the Elks knocked off Duluth East 4-1. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
Elk River coach Ben Gustafson preaches team defense.
After Saturday’s 4-1 win over Duluth East (14-6-1, 1-0), Gustafson said that’s what prevailed -- team defense. As his Elks (17-4, 8-1) push into the closing weeks before section playoffs, Gustafson said that’s what will help Elk River keep its momentum.
Senior goalie Ben Meyers stopped 10 Duluth East shots, but had help from Elks defenders and even the forwards. Not only did two senior defensemen -- Nick Perbix and Benton Maass -- net two goals for Elk River, but they helped stifle Greyhounds shooters, using their bodies to stop shots in front of the net.
“As a staff, we constantly talk about team defense,” Gustafson said. “Obviously it starts with solid goaltending and our defensemen playing well, but our forwards are included as well. We talk about doing the little things to win games like back-checking and blocking shots, and our sticks in lanes and winning puck battles. I thought all of our guys did a good job of that today. It was good team defense.”
Elk River’s defense was so strong, in fact, that they didn’t have to worry once about defending a power play. Although Greyhounds skaters were called for two penalties, the Elks never went to the box. Elk River headed into Saturday’s game with an 84 percent penalty kill.
After a bizarre play in the second period, with an Elk River shot that most everyone in the stands cheered believing it went in, Duluth East’s Nick Lanigan (10-3-13) sped down the ice, took a pass from junior forward Ian Mageau (9-21-30) and put it into the net. The shorthanded goal was Duluth East’s lone score.
“They faced some adversity in the second period there, when you think it’s a goal and it’s not,” Gustafson said. “Then they (Duluth East) go down and score a goal -- it’s kind of ironic. The way that we responded in scoring that goal 20 seconds later was huge. It was huge.”
26 seconds later, the Elks, ranked No. 4 in Class 2A in the state coaches’ poll, took their turn. With Duluth East’s Zach Madill still in the box for a minor tripping penalty, Maass (4-21-25) put one past the Greyhounds’ Kirk Meierhoff, tying the score 1-1.
Team points-leader Perbix (9-22-31) took his turn next with an unassisted goal 13:44 into the period, his ninth on the season. Senior forward Jax Murray’s (12-13-25) goal at 10:28 in the third came off a pass from Nate Horn. Max Michaelis notched an assist on the play.
Junior forward Tommy Laabs (7-6-13) put the icing on the cake for Elk River, netting his seventh this season.
Coming off a big 8-1 win over Superior on Thursday, it’s the No. 12-2A Greyhounds’ first loss since a 3-2 heartbreaker against Eden Prairie on Jan. 14.
Meierhoff stopped 30 shots for the Greyhounds.
For a Elk River team with high hopes for the postseason, they can take some pride in their offense, too. Averaging 4.45 goals per game -- and coming off a 5-3 win over Northwest Suburban - North rival Blaine -- the Elks head into the final weeks of play atop their conference.
Elk River, ranked No. 4 in Class 2A in the coaches’ poll, topped Duluth East 4-1 Saturday afternoon at Elk River Ice Arena.
After Duluth East (14-6-1, 1-0) drew first blood on a Nick Lanigan goal three minutes into the second period, it was all Elk River (17-4, 8-1). The Elks spread the puck around, with Benton Maass, Nick Perbix, Jax Murray and Tommy Laabs all netting a goal.
After a bizarre play in the second period, with an Elk River shot that most everyone in the stands cheered believing it went in, Duluth East’s Lanigan sped down the ice, took a pass from junior forward Ian Mageau and put it into the net. The shorthanded goal was the Greyhounds’ lone score.
26 seconds later, the Elks took their turn. With No. 12-2A Duluth East’s Zach Madill still in the box for a minor tripping penalty, Maass put one past Kirk Meierhoff, tying the score 1-1.
Perbix took his turn next with an unassisted goal 13:44 into the period, his ninth on the season.
Murray’s goal at 10:28 in the third came off a pass from Nate Horn. Max Michaelis notched an assist on the play.
Elk River’s Ben Meyers stopped 10 shots and Meierhoff stopped 30 for the Greyhounds.
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