Panthers continue winning tradition
Having success during the regular season has become a tradition for the Park Rapids-Menahga boys hockey team.
Unfortunately, the Panthers haven't been able to extend that success to the postseason.
The Panthers followed another successful regular season with a loss in the Section 8A quarterfinals to finish with a 16-8-2 overall record.
Over the last five seasons, the Panthers have won at least 15 games. However, Park Rapids has been eliminated in the section semifinals twice and in the section quarterfinals the other three times.
In their 26 games, the Panthers were outshot by their opponents only four times. Park Rapids scored 130 goals while allowing 71 goals and posting five shutouts. The Panthers scored at least one goal in every game and were held to only one goal three times.
The Panthers opened the season with a 48-11 edge in shots in a 17-1 win over Walker-Hackensack-Akeley. The 17 goals were the second most in school history, trailing an 18-2 win over Pequot Lakes in 2000.
Park Rapids was outshot 42-29 in a 3-1 loss to East Grand Forks before holding a 36-12 edge in shots in a 6-2 win over Greenway.
Como Park used a 23-21 edge in shots to edge the Panthers 3-2 before a 42-19 advantage in shots led to a 6-2 win at St. Bernard's as Park Rapids split games in St. Paul.
After dropping a 5-4 overtime decision to Detroit Lakes in which the Panthers held a 38-29 edge in shots, Park Rapids went undefeated over its next five games.
Park Rapids dominated Wadena-Deer Creek with a 66-15 edge in shots in a 5-1 win, used a 40-29 edge in shots to tie Lake of the Woods 3-3 and edged Crookston 3-2 despite being outshot 37-35.
The Panthers reached the championship game of the Eveleth-Gilbert tournament with a 7-4 win over Minneapolis West and a 5-2 win over Henry Sibley. Park Rapids held a 41-16 edge in shots against West and had a 38-24 advantage in shots against Sibley. In the title game, Spring Lake Park used a 48-46 edge in shots to defeat Park Rapids 8-3.
Park Rapids had the advantage in shots the rest of the season.
A 33-15 edge in shots led to a 5-0 win over Northern Lakes, a 44-10 advantage in shots sparked an 8-1 win over Bagley/Fosston and a 38-19 edge in shots keyed a 5-0 win over Kittson Central.
Thief River Falls matched Park Rapids' 30 shots in a 5-1 victory before the Panthers rebounded to win three of the next four games via shutouts.
Park Rapids dominated W-DC with a 51-7 advantage in shots in a 6-0 win and followed with a 38-15 edge in shots to blank Red Lake Falls 4-0. A 44-23 advantage in shots led to a 6-4 win over Northern Lakes before a dominating 56-8 advantage in shots sparked a 13-0 win over W-H-A.
The Panthers held a 45-28 edge in shots in a 2-1 loss to Lake of the Woods, used a 35-25 edge in shots to defeat Red Lake Falls 4-2, settled for a 2-2 tie with Crookston despite having a 37-32 edge in shots, and fell to Kittson Central 6-5 despite having a 34-21 advantage in shots in the regular-season finale.
After going 7-4-2 against Section 8A opponents, the Panthers received the No. 6 seed for the section playoffs and were eliminated with a 5-1 loss to No. 3 East Grand Forks, which won despite being outshot 34-21.
Warroad ended up winning the section title and finished third at the state Class A tournament. Warroad was rated No. 4 and Thief River Falls was ranked No. 6 in the final state Class A poll.
"I thought we had another successful season," said Park Rapids head coach Pete Stahnke. "The kids played hard and played well all year. We wanted to advance further in the playoffs, but I felt we played well against East Grand Forks. I thought we played well enough to win, but we didn't have any luck."
Despite not reaching their goal of advancing to the section title game, the Panthers did produce a record-setting season when senior Tucker Coborn, senior Kevin McMorrow and sophomore Sam Coborn all went over 100 points for their careers.
Tucker Coborn capped off his senior season with 32 goals and 32 assists for 64 points. The 32 goals in a season were the fourth most in school history, the 32 assists were fifth in school history and the 64 points were the fifth most in school history. Coborn finished with 77 career goals (third best in school history) and 69 assists for 146 points, which is the third highest in school history behind Zach Lehrke's 212 points and Tyler Lehrke's 192 points. Coborn finished 16th in the state in goals and 12th in the state in total points.
McMorrow became the first defenseman in school history to surpass 100 points as his 12 goals and 23 assists for 35 points gave him 110 for his career. That moved McMorrow into the No. 7 spot all time behind Darin Hafner's 134 points, Pat Albee's 122 points and Levi Goeden's 122 points.
Sam Coborn moved into the No. 8 spot in school history with 109 points. Coborn led the Panthers with 40 assists (which was the third most in school history) and was second on the team with 30 goals (for the No. 6 spot all time) for 70 points, which ranked third behind Zach Lehrke's 99 and Tyler Lehrke's 79. Coborn finished sixth in the state in assists, 19th in the state in goals and eighth in the state in total points.
The Panthers also received solid contributions from the other 21 players who saw varsity action. Heading that list were seniors Dan Ricke, Jared Naeve, Ryan O'Mara, Ben Sitz, Jeff Sharp, AJ May, Steve Smith and Mark Bravo; junior Kyle Kanten; sophomores Levi Erickson, Scott Smith, Lucas Maves, Zach O'Hern, Cory Odland and Kody Walsh; and freshmen Ian Johnson and Frank Moren.
Ricke, a forward, finished fourth on the team in scoring with 14 goals and 14 assists for 28 points.
Kanten, a forward, had 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points.
Johnson, a forward, had 13 goals and nine assists for 22 points.
Erickson, a forward, also hit 20 points with 11 goals and nine assists.
Naeve was the other player to hit double digits in points with two goals and 14 assists for 16 points as a defenseman.
O'Mara played 15 games in the nets and had a 9-5-1 record with five shutouts. O'Mara allowed 31 goals and made 271 saves for a goals against average of 2.07 and a save percentage of 89.7 percent.
Also contributing on defense were Sitz (one goal and six assists), Moren (two goals and three assists) Maves (two assists), Steve Smith (one assist) and Walsh (one assist).
The other forwards who scored were Sharp (one goal, one assist), May (two assists), Odland (one goal) and O'Hern (one assist).
Bravo and Scott Smith also saw some action in the nets. Bravo had a 5-2 record, allowing 18 goals and making 110 saves while Smith went 2-1-1 with 22 goals allowed and 109 saves.
Also seeing some varsity time this season were eighth graders Noah MacPherson (two assists as a center), Bailey Mueller (one assist as a defenseman), Drew Bade and Kurt Fritze.
Several Panthers received post-season honors. Tucker Coborn, McMorrow and Sam Coborn were named to the Section 8A team and Northwest Conference team. Those three and Naeve received Mid-State Conference honors while Kanten and Sitz were Mid-State Conference honorable mention selections. Park Rapids won the Mid-State title for the third year in a row with a 7-1 record. Detroit Lakes finished 6-2 while Northern Lakes went 5-3, W-DC finished 2-6 and W-H-A ended 0-8.
Earning team awards were Tucker Coborn (Hobey Baker Award), McMorrow (Matt Spangler Award) and Sharp (Team Award).
Even though the Panthers graduate another talented group of seniors, Stahnke is looking for the team to continue its winning tradition next season.
"We had a great senior crew this year. The seniors were great leaders and good teammates. We're going to be young next year, but the seniors showed the younger kids what it takes to be successful and I expect the younger kids to keep carrying the torch," said Stahnke. "We never talk about rebuilding. We only talk about playing to win. We have a little work ahead of us, but the younger kids will get bigger and stronger and will fit right in. I'm looking for us to have another successful season next year."