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Park Rapids' Ian Johnson (5) kept Detroit Lakes' Austin Rusness away from the puck during Tuesday night's game.

Panthers develop momentum

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Pete Stahnke says he uses the regular season for the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team to build momentum entering the playoffs.

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The Panthers didn't have that late-season momentum until Tuesday night's regular-season finale at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena.

In the prior four games against Section 8A opponents, the Panthers struggled. Park Rapids needed a late goal to edge Red Lake Falls 1-0. Warroad held Park Rapids to only nine shots on goal in a 4-0 victory. The Panthers had to score twice in the final three minutes to escape with a 6-5 overtime win over Bagley/Fosston. In their last game, the Panthers were dominated in an 8-2 loss to Kittson Central.

On Tuesday night, the Panthers looked like an entirely different team as the offense clicked in a dominating 7-0 Mid-State Conference win over Detroit Lakes. That victory gave the Panthers the conference championship with a 7-1 record and provided some momentum entering the Section 8A tournament.

Park Rapids, which improved to 14-8-3, received the No. 6 seed in the section and will open the tournament with a quarterfinal game at No. 3 Warroad Thursday night at 7. Warroad enters the tournament with a 17-6-2 record and the No. 10 ranking in the latest state Class A poll.

The section tournament begins Tuesday night with No. 7 Detroit Lakes (10-13-1) hosting No. 10 Red Lake Falls (3-22) and No. 8 Lake of the Woods (8-14-2) hosting No. 9 Bagley/Fosston (7-16-1).

In Thursday night's other section quarterfinal games, No. 1 East Grand Forks (19-2-3) hosts either LOW or Bagley/Fosston, No. 4 Crookston (13-12) hosts No. 5 Kittson Central (14-9), and No. 2 Thief River Falls (15-9) hosts either Detroit Lakes or Red Lake Falls. East Grand Forks is rated No. 4 while Thief River Falls is rated No. 8 in the latest state Class A poll.

East Grand Forks will host the section semifinals Feb. 23 at 6 and 8:15 p.m. and the championship game on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.

Even though Detroit Lakes finished with a 33-32 edge in shots in the regular-season finale, goalie Cody Brumbaugh recorded his fourth shutout of the season by stopping all 33 shots. Noah MacPherson sparked the offense with four goals as the Panthers avenged a 5-1 loss to Detroit Lakes in the second game of the season.

MacPherson opened the scoring at the 6:03 mark and Ian Johnson followed with a goal 53 seconds later to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead after the first period. Drew Bade and Jeff Jacobson received assists on Johnson's goal.

MacPherson completed his hat trick with two goals in the second period. Connor Kennedy assisted on the first goal at the 4:51 mark while Frank Moren set up MacPherson for a shorthanded goal at the 12:40 mark as the Panthers carried a 4-0 lead into the third period.

Goals by Moren, Kiefer Miller and MacPherson concluded the scoring. MacPherson assisted on Moren's goal at the 1:21 mark while Bade and Chase Brand had assists on Miller's goal at the 4:56 mark. Moren and Kennedy assisted on MacPherson's fourth goal of the game at the 12:18 mark.

The Panthers evened their record against section teams at 7-7-1. DL finished second in the conference standings with a 5-2-1 record and fell to 4-3 against section opponents.

Detroit Lakes 0 0 0...0

Park Rapids 2 2 3...7

FIRST PERIOD: 1, Park Rapids, MacPherson, 6:03. 2, Park Rapids, Johnson (Bade, Jacobson), 6:56. Penalties: Detroit Lakes 2, Park Rapids 1.

SECOND PERIOD: 3, Park Rapids, MacPherson (Kennedy), 4:51. 4, Park Rapids, MacPherson (Moren), 12:40. Penalties: Detroit Lakes 1, Park Rapids 3.

THIRD PERIOD: 5, Park Rapids, Moren (MacPherson), 1:21. 6, Park Rapids, Miller (Bade, Brand), 4:56. 7, Park Rapids, MacPherson (Moren, Kennedy), 12:18. Penalties: Detroit Lakes 2, Park Rapids 0.

GOALIE SAVES: Detroit Lakes (Steele) 11-5-9-25. Park Rapids (Brumbaugh) 11-11-11-33.

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