As Miley Cyrus’ 2009 smash hit, “Party in the U.S.A.,” blared over the speakers at Furniture and Things Community Event Center in Elk River, it truly was a party-like atmosphere as the Elks girls hockey team honored its 2021 senior class and won its first game at Furniture and Things Community Event Center.
Elk River (4-4-0, 4-4-0) defeated Rogers (4-4-0, 4-4-0) 6-2 on Friday, Feb. 5. Senior forward Maddy Christian scored four goals and had one assist for a five-point game and sophomore forward Andi Huselid scored twice.
Elks head coach Brian Ballenger said he was happy with how Elk River played on Friday night.
“We battled hard,” Ballenger said. “We need to be a gritty team. We’ve got, obviously, a great group of girls, so obviously very pleased with their effort and their excitement.”
Elk River opened the scoring at 13:04 of the first period when Huselid backhanded the puck past Rogers sophomore goaltender Lauren Larson for her third goal of the season after receiving a cross-ice pass from freshman forward Hailey Jussila.
Christian scored her first of four goals when she beat Larson top shelf 40 seconds into the second period. Christian struck again with another top-shelf shot at 4:54 of the second for her second multi-goal game of 2020-21.
Rogers got on the board at 4:29 of the third period when junior forward Anna Scherling beat Elks junior goaltender Ashley Hess for her second goal of the season.
After Huselid scored her second goal of the game at 5:32 of the third, Christian completed her hat trick at 6:43 of the period. It was her second hat trick of 2020-21 and the fourth of her career.
Ballenger said Elk River was prepared to work harder than Rogers.
“Our girls believe that we work harder than everybody else, playing gritty, closing gaps, closing sticks, all those things,” Ballenger said.
Before the game, the Elks honored their 2021 seniors: defenders Cora Coz and Sammi Jung and forward Allison Fischer. Each player skated a lap around the ice as their teammates stood near the boards. Ballenger hugged all three of them and each senior had an opportunity to take photos with their families.
Ballenger said all three seniors mean so much to him.
“My first experience back into girls hockey was with a U12 A team which those 3 were on that team and they welcomed me in, and I am so honored to be a part of their senior night and their program. They mean so much to our team and so much to our program. It’s why you think about why we are gritty, why we’ve battled the way we’ve battled this year, they’re a big part of it, for sure."
Offensive Player of the Game
Christian came in like a wrecking ball with her second multi-point game of the season and since joining the Elks in 2017-18.
Ballenger said Christian can shoot the puck well.
“She’s spent a lot of time on that,” he said. “She’s a top-end player committed to going to Penn State. There are high expectations that she has for herself and that we have for her. Scoring four goals is a great thing for Maddy, but the bigger thing I guess is when I look at it is, all but one of those goals had at least one assist, and in some cases, they should have had at least two assists, whether it was credited or not. It was the puck movement that got her the puck that created those openings. It was good to see her get on the scoresheet as much as she did, for sure.”
Defensive Player of the Game
Hess made 24 saves for her third win of the season.
Ballenger said Hess is the backbone of Elk River’s defense.
“She’s rock-solid in there,” he said. “Early in the first period, we had some scoring chances early on, but I thought Rogers had some good scoring chances as we were a little bit tight. Rogers possessed the puck a little bit better than we did in the early goings and Ashley helped calm us down by making some big saves and keeping us knotted at 0 at that point in time. Then, throughout the rest of the game, as the girls picked it up, she continued to be rock solid for us.
Elk River will host Armstrong-Cooper on Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. at Furniture and Things Community Event Center. The Elkss defeated the Wings 4-3 in their most-recent game on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, at Elk River Ice Arena in Blaine.