Panthers' defense dominates
After giving up two goals in the final two minutes in a 3-2 loss to East Grand Forks, the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Ake-ley girls hockey team responded by not allowing a goal in skating to three straight shutouts.
The Panthers shut out Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/ Wadena-Deer Creek for the second time this season with a 9-0 victory last Tuesday night at Wadena.
Park Rapids then followed a 3-0 win at Lake of the Woods Thursday night with a 3-0 victory over Eveleth-Gilbert Saturday afternoon at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena.
Those three wins lifted the Panthers to 6-1 in Mid-State Conference play, 3-5 against Section 8A teams and 12-10 overall entering the regular-season finale against Thief River Falls Thursday night. Thief River Falls will most likely be the No. 2 seed for the section playoffs.
"The girls are working hard and responding," said Park Rapids head coach Gary Vaudrin, whose team has seven shutouts on the season. "I'm really happy with the way we're playing. We're playing solid hockey. The girls played really well (against EGF), but let it slip away. We want to come out (Thursday) and make a statement going into the playoffs."
Panthers dominate Devils
For the third time this season, the Panthers dominated LPGE/WDC.
Jessica Gapinski and Tayah Otterness scored two goals apiece as the Panthers held a 40-23 advantage in shots in defeating the Blue Devils for the third time this season by a combined score of 27-1.
Gapinski scored twice in the first period to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead. Hannah Williams and Lauren Naeve had assists on Gapinski's first goal.
Goals by Julia Renner, Abby Fischer, Otterness and Williams extended the lead to 6-0 after the second period. Williams, Otterness, Danika Aletto, Fischer, Gapinski and Naeve tallied assists in that period.
Allie Bade, Christina Smith and Otterness scored in the third period to cap off the win. Ashley Thelen and Fischer had assists in that period.
Goalie Bailey Moore recorded 23 saves for the shutout as the Blue Devils dropped to 0-6 in conference games and 5-17 overall.
Park Rapids 2 4 3.....9
LPGE/WDC 0 0 0.....0
FIRST PERIOD: 1, Park Rapids, Gapinski (Williams, Naeve), 6:31. 2, Park Rapids, Gapinski (unassisted), 8:01. Penalties: Park Rapids 1, LPGE/WDC 0.
SECOND PERIOD: 3, Park Rapids, Renner (Williams), 5:13. 4, Park Rapids, Fischer (Otterness), 5:50. 5, Park Rapids, Otterness (Aletto, Fischer), 10:15. 6, Park Rapids, Williams (Gapinski, Naeve), 11:52. Penalties: Park Rapids 0, LPGE/WDC 1.
THIRD PERIOD: 7, Park Rapids, Bade (Thelen), 2:30. 8, Park Rapids, Smith (unassisted), 4:23. 9, Park Rapids, Otterness (Fischer), 13:43. Penalties: Park Rapids 1, LPGE/WDC 0.
GOALIE SAVES: Park Rapids (Moore) 11-4-8-23. LPGE/WDC (Holm) 14-5-x-19; (Hanson) x-4-8-12.
Panthers shut out Bears
Goalie Shania Johnson made 24 saves in leading the Panthers past Lake of the Woods for the second time this season.
After a scoreless first period, Smith set up Alex Pederson to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Goals by Williams and Jessie O'Hern in the third period sealed the win. Gapinski received an assist in Williams' power-play goal.
Each team fired 24 shots on net.
LOW, which lost to the Panthers 4-1 earlier in the season, fell to 0-8 in section games and 1-20 overall.
Park Rapids 0 1 2.....3
Lake of the Woods 0 0 0.....0
FIRST PERIOD: No scoring.
SECOND PERIOD: 1, Park Rapids, Pederson (Smith), 1:21.
THIRD PERIOD: 2, Park Rapids, Williams (Gapinski), 1:49. 3, Park Rapids, O'Hern (unassisted), 15:35.
GOALIE SAVES: Park Rapids (Johnson) 24. LOW (Ney) 21.
Panthers avenge loss to E-G
The Panthers avenged a loss to Eveleth-Gilbert by holding a 35-7 advantage in shots.
Taylor Pachel and Otterness assisted on a goal by Fischer as the Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the first period. Park Rapids held a 16-3 edge in shots in the opening period.
Goals by Williams and Kendra Dresow pushed the lead to 3-0 after the second period. Mady Vaudrin assisted on Williams' goal while Williams set up Dresow's breakaway goal.
Park Rapids' defense held E-G to only two shots on goal during a scoreless third period.
The win avenged a 4-3 loss to the Golden Bears earlier this season. E-G fell to 3-20-1.
Eveleth-Gilbert 0 0 0.....0
Park Rapids 1 2 0.....3
FIRST PERIOD: 1, Park Rapids, Fischer (Pachel, Otterness), 3:15.
SECOND PERIOD: 2, Park Rapids, Williams (Vaudrin), 14:12. 3, Park Rapids, Dresow (Williams), 5:43.
THIRD PERIOD: No scoring.
GOALIE SAVES: Eveleth-Gilbert (Fossland) 15-9-8-32. Park Rapids (Johnson) 3-2-2-7.