Boys hockey team looking for winning record, semifinal trip
Even though the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team has to replace the all-time leading scorer in school history, head coach Pete Stahnke is expecting another winning season and a return trip to the Section 8A semifinals.
In order to improve on last year's 14-13 record, the Panthers have to find players to pick up the offensive production of last year's senior crew of Sam Coborn, Levi Erickson, Benson Ringle and Cory Odland. Coborn graduated as the team's all-time leading scorer with 104 goals and 124 assists for 228 points, including team highs of 24 goals and 31 assists last season. Erickson was second in points with 18 goals and 15 assists. Ringle was fourth with 14 goals and 14 assists while Odland followed with 11 goals and 9 assists. Goalie Scott Smith (5-4 record) and defenseman Lucas Maves also graduated.
Looking to lead the Panthers to another successful season are seniors Ian Johnson and Frank Moren and juniors Cody Brumbaugh, Noah MacPherson, Drew Bade, Luke Jaeger, Jamie Stewart, Bailey Mueller, Jeff Jacobson, Ryan DeLaHunt, Raul Garcia and Chris Walters.
Johnson became the 11th player in school history to surpass 100 career points after tallying 12 goals and 20 assists for 32 points last season. Johnson was an all-section honorable mention player and Northwest Conference player who made the move from forward to defenseman midway through the season. Johnson ranks No. 9 in career scoring with 109 points.
Also returning on defense for the Panthers are Stewart (2 goals, 2 assists), Mueller (3 assists) and Walters.
Brumbaugh returns as the starting goalie after going 9-9 and allowing 57 goals with 624 saves in 25 games.
Looking to lead the way offensively are MacPherson (6 goals, 12 assists), Moren (7 goals, 8 assists), Bade (3 goals, 2 assists), Jaeger (2 goals, 3 assists), Jacobson (2 assists), DeLaHunt (1 assist) and Garcia (1 goal, 1 assist).
Also being counted on to produce on the varsity are junior wing Cody Koebernick, sophomore wing Connor Kennedy and freshman defenseman Kiefer Miller.
Starting the season on the junior varsity are seniors Arik Hillukka and Devon Mankie; juniors Zane Berg, Alex Nelson, Kade Navratil, Lucas Pritchett and Adam Young; sophomores Zach Hagen, Dylan Weaver, Nathan Kelley, Brian Hillukka and Craig Walters; freshmen Ben Haugle and Matt DeLaHunt; and eighth grader Chase Band.
Stahnke is starting the season with Moren, MacPherson and Jaeger on the first line and Bade, DeLaHunt and Kennedy on the second line. Jacobson, Garcia and Koebernick are the top candidates to comprise the third line.
Defensively, Stahnke will pair Johnson with Mueller and Stewart with Miller or Walters.
"We're going to be young with only two seniors, but we're experienced. We return a lot of experience on defense and we should have two solid lines offensively," said Stahnke. "We lost a lot of our scoring, so we'll need kids to step up. Our defensemen are offensive minded, so I look for them to create opportunities on offense."
Last season, the Panthers won the Northwest Conference title with an 8-2 record and claimed the Mid-State Conference title by going 6-2. Park Rapids received the No. 5 seed for the section playoffs and upset No. 4 Crookston 3-1 before being eliminated with a 5-0 loss to No. 1 Thief River Falls.
Stahnke is looking for his team to at least duplicate those results this season.
"Our section is going to be tough again, but I look for us to be right where we were last year," said Stahnke, who will be assisted by Jim Wallace, Carter Tyk and Craig Brand. "Our goal is to make it back to the section semifinals. Building a third line is the key. I think we're good enough to make a run come playoff time."