The Elks boys hockey team is continuing its winning ways in 2021-22. 

Elk River (5-1-0, 2-1-0) defeated St. Michael-Albertville 6-0 (2-1-0, 0-0-0) on Tuesday, Dec. 7, at Furniture and Things Community Event Center. The Elks were anchored offensively by senior forward Blake Johnson, who scored a hat trick and had one assist on Tuesday night.

Elks head coach Ben Gustafson said he and the coaching staff make it a point for the Elks to earn every win.

“Tonight was youth night,” Gustafson said. “There was a great crowd here. After a year like we had last year not being able to play in front of fans, being able to have the youth players and our friends and family from the community out here supporting us is awesome. It was a good atmosphere, tonight, played a good opponent in St. Michael [Albertville]. It was a good section win for us. [I’m] proud of the way our kids competed and battled.”

Johnson started the scoring at 5:17 of the first period when he beat St. Michael-Albertville senior goaltender Jack Woitalla. It was Johnson’s sixth goal of 2021-22.

After holding onto a 1-0 lead at intermission, the Elks blew the game open in the second period. Junior forward Matt Reinert scored his first goal of 2021-22 at 1:27 of the second period. It was unassisted. At 4:05 of the second, Johnson scored his second goal of the game an seventh of the season. Senior forward Andrew Foss scored Elk River’s fourth power-play goal of the season at 13:47 of the third. It was Foss’ fourth goal of 2021-22. Foss scored again at 1:04 of the third for his first multi-goal game of the season. Johnson completed his hat trick at 13:08 of the third. It was his first hat trick of his varsity career since joining the Elks in 2018-19.

Gustafson said the high school hockey expereience is all about enjoying the facilies and the moments long after a player leaves the program. Furniture and Things Community Event Center opened in the winter of 2021 after extensive remodeling. It exists on the site of the old Elk River Ice Arena that closed in 2020.

“These kids work hard,” he said. “To be able to put their hard work in front of their friends and family is cool and special for them. I know it’s something they don’t take for granted after a year like we had last year. The kids are excited. It was great to have a good crowd here, tonight.”

Sophomore goaltender Sam Stockman blanked the Knights for his first-career shutout. Stockman, who is also a pitcher on the Elks baseball team during the spring season, stopped all 25 St. Michael-Albertville shots. 

Gustafson said Stockman was outstanding on Tuesday night.

“He made some great saves in the first period, especially when we weren’t as tight defensively as we wanted to be. We gave up two breakaways. Sam was there and made some huge saves for us and timely saves for us. Once the game got going, we progressively got better and better and were able to use our speed, which is one of our strengths as a team and get some pucks on their goalie [Woitalla]. The saves in the first period by Sam were huge.”

Elks beat St. Cloud 5-2 in 2021-22 home opener

After a hard-fought 3-2 loss to Elk River in the only River Battle of 2021-22, the Elks responded with a win.

The Elks defeated St. Cloud (1-2-1, 1-0-0) 5-2 on Saturday, Dec. 4, in the Elks 2021-22 home opener.

Senior forward Erik Pilich opened the scoring at 7:15 of the first period with his first goal of 2021-22, beating St. Cloud goaltender Ben Condon. St. Cloud tied the game at 16:36 of the third when senior defender Ripley Garden beat Stockman for his third goal of the season.

Senior forward Kayden Grassel broke the tie at 4:54 of the second with his first goal of 2021-22. The Elks wouldn’t look back and also received goals from Foss, sophomore forward Jack Fitch and junior defenseman Carter Davis. Stockman made 21 saves on 23 shots for his third win of 2021-22.

In front of a packed and raucous crowd at Rogers Activity Center in Rogers on Thursday night, the Royals avenged a hard-fought 3-1 loss to No. 5 Lakeville South on Saturday, Nov. 27, with a win against one of its closest adversaries.

Rogers (2-1-1, 1-0-1) defeated Elk River 3-2 on Thursday, Dec. 2.

Royals head coach Dave Brown said everyone on Rogers stepped into a role that they’ve been working for.

“That was a gusty performance by every guy up and down the lineup,” Brown said. 

Neither team found the back of the net in the first period. The Elks outshot the Royals 8-7.

The Royals struck first at 2:34 of the second period when junior defensemen Trent Peluf scored his first goal of 2021-22 by beating Elk River sophomore goaltender Sam Stockman with a wrist shot top shelf. Junior forward Sam Ranallo, who missed the Nov. 27 game against the Cougars, made his mark on the game with his first goal of the season at 12:49 of the second period. It was his first goal since Wednesday, March 17. The Royals held onto a 2-0 lead at the end of two periods. 

Elks senior forward Andrew Foss scored a power-play goal at 5:50 of the third to cut Rogers’ lead to 2-1. It was Foss’ first goal of the season. Ranallo answered with a beautiful goal 12 seconds later, restoring the Royals’ two-goal lead.

Elk River senior forward Blaise Schutt scored a shorthanded goal at blank of the second period. It was his third goal of 2021-22. Elk River pulled Stockman late in the third to try and get the equalizer to force overtime. The Elks came close to tying the game, but Royals junior goaltender Cade Chapman kept the Elks from tying the game.

Foss said even though the Elks lost, he thought he played the best game of his varsity career.

“I believe that our practice the day before was solid,” Foss said. “It showed tonight that hard work in practice correlates to games.”

Elk River is 0-2 at Rogers since Brown took over as head coach three seasons ago.

Elks head coach Ben Gustafson said he was proud of Elk River’s effort even though the Elks suffered their first loss of 2021-22 on Tuesday night.

“We’re all competitive and we’re not happy to lose,” Gustafson said. “We’ve got a great group of kids. I’m excited for the future of this team.”

Brown said the Royals have wanted to play in games against teams like Elk River for a long time.

“They are relishing the moment of playing in front of crowds and atmospheres like the one we had tonight,” he said. “The formula for winning games like tonight is it takes every guy in the locker room. We had four guys out of the lineup tonight. To see every guy take their game to another level, as a coach, you dream of. Tonight, every guy rose to the occasion.”

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