Elk River’s Matt Kiersted (middle) was named an alternate captain for the North Dakota hockey team.

Perbix to play true freshman season at Minnesota, while King set to play at Minnesota State Mankato

by Jake Andersen

Sports Reporter

Becoming a captain at one of the winningest programs in college hockey is a pretty big deal. Just ask Elk River native Matt Kiersted.

Kiersted, who’s heading into his junior season at the University of North Dakota, was named one of three alternate captains for the 2019-20 season by head coach Brad Berry on Aug. 1, joining junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi and senior forward Cole Smith as alternates. Senior defenseman Colton Poolman will captain the team for a second season.

“It is an incredible honor to be selected as one of the captains this year. Knowing that your teammates voted for you to be one of the leaders on the team is a special feeling,” Kiersted said about being named a captain for a program with eight national championships — tied for second most all-time with Denver.

Kiersted is coming off a strong sophomore season at UND, where he became one of the team’s premier defensemen. He led all UND blue-liners with 18 points, scoring seven goals and 11 assists in 36 games to go along with a +2 plus/minus rating.

It was a step forward for the former Elk, who put together a solid freshman season, scoring four goals and four assists in 29 games with a -2 plus/minus rating. Prior to joining UND, Kiersted, 21, spent two seasons at Elk River High School, scoring 57 career points, before spending two seasons in the United States Hockey League with the Chicago Steel, scoring 37 points.

“I think as each year goes by I’ve grown as a player, leader and all-around human at UND. A little bit more responsibility comes with each year,” Kiersted said about his growth over the past two years. “Being able to see how some of the captains before me ran things and the way they showed leadership will help a lot as (I take on this new role).”

Kiersted will be counted on to help lead the program back to the NCAA tournament. After making the tournament for 16 consecutive seasons, UND has fallen short the past two years despite winning seasons — 19-13-10 in 2017-18 and 18-17-2 last season.

While it’s been a difficult couple of years for the program, Kiersted is confident that this year’s group is ready to break through in a big way.

“The goal every year is to make it to the national tournament,” Kiersted said. “I truly believe this team is capable of a lot more than that.”

He added that it’ll take every player to get to where they want to be, though, not just the ones wearing the “C” or “A”.

“Just because some of us are wearing letters on our jersey doesn’t mean that’s where the leadership ends. Every guy in the locker room is a leader in their own way,” he said. “I’m excited for the season to start and see where this year takes us.”

Other Division I hockey news

— Elk River’s Jack Perbix will play his true freshman season at the University of Minnesota this winter following one full season in the United States Hockey League. Perbix split time with the Green Bay Gamblers and Des Moines Buccaneers, scoring 12 goals and 38 assists in 65 games. Perbix forwent his senior season at Elk River to play in the USHSL, but recorded 45 goals and 90 assists over three high school seasons. Perbix is a 2018 fourth-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks.

— Elk River’s Kelsey King will play her freshman season for Minnesota State Mankato University following a standout senior season with the Elks. King scored 45 goals and 21 assists in 27 games, finishing her career with 100 goals and 57 assists over four seasons. King made the All-Metro and All-State teams, while also being named a Ms. Hockey finalist.

— Elk River’s Madison Bizal and Rogers’ Paetyn Levis will return to Ohio State University for their sophomore seasons. As freshmen, Bizal recorded six assists in 35 games, while Levis scored three goals and three assists in 34 games. Recently, it was announced that Ohio State will play the University of Minnesota on Hockey Day Minnesota, which will take place on Jan. 18 at Parade Stadium in Minneapolis.

— Elk River’s Jax Murray, a 2017 graduate, will head into his freshman season at Arizona State University following a two-year stint in the National American Hockey League. Murray played for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, scoring 100 points over two seasons. Murray played three seasons at Elk River, scoring 86 career points. Murray will become the first Minnesotan to play for Arizona State, who enters its fifth season as a program. The Sun Devils made their first NCAA tournament last season.

— Other local players playing at the Division I level: Reggie Lutz, Elk River (Minnesota State Mankato, junior); Jake Jaremko, Elk River (Minnesota State Mankato, junior); Wyatt Ege, Elk River (Ohio State, RS senior); Benton Maass, Elk River (New Hampshire, junior); Nick Perbix, Elk River (St. Cloud State, sophomore); McKenna Wesloh, Elk River/Zimmerman (St. Cloud State, junior); Matthew Hellickson, Rogers (Notre Dame, junior).

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