Panthers went .500, fulfilled main goal
Gary Vaudrin wanted his senior players to close out their careers by winning a Section 8A playoff game.
Those seniors were able to fulfill that goal as the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley girls hockey team received the No. 4 seed and advanced to the Section 8A semifinals for the first time.
Defeating Crookston 2-1 at home in the section quarterfinals before falling to Thief River Falls 6-0 in the semifinals capped off a successful 13-13-1 season.
“I was pretty satisfied with the season,” said Vaudrin. “Obviously we would have liked to have finished higher, but overall I was happy where we ended up.”
The Panthers opened the season by outshooting Morris/Benson 30-14 in a 9-0 win and followed with a 7-0 loss to Warroad, which held a 41-11 advantage in shots.
After a 5-1 win over Northern Lakes in which the Panthers held a 29-26 edge in shots, Park Rapids was outshot 41-20 in a 7-3 loss to International Falls, 63-11 in a 5-0 loss to Thief River Falls, 35-29 in a 3-1 loss to Detroit Lakes, 36-15 in a 1-1 tie with Crookston and 73-9 in an 8-0 loss to Thief River Falls.
Park Rapids dominated with a 58-11 edge in shots in an 8-0 win over Morris/Benson and edged Eveleth-Gilbert 2-1 despite being outshot 23-21.
Detroit Lakes used a 27-23 edge in shots for a 2-0 win and East Grand Forks used a 47-18 advantage in shots for a 5-1 win. Warroad followed with a 57-20 edge in shots in a 7-0 victory.
The Panthers outshot Lake of the Woods 47-13 in an 8-0 win before West Fargo used a 42-10 advantage in shots for a 7-0 win at the Crookston tournament. The Panthers used a 33-28 edge in shots to shut out Mandan 6-0 at the Crookston tournament.
A 35-25 edge in shots led to a 4-1 win over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Wadena-Deer Creek before International Falls used a 32-26 edge in shots for a 3-1 win. The Panthers locked up the No. 4 seed in the section with a key 2-0 win over Crookston. Park Rapids held a 21-15 edge in shots in that game.
After being outshot 29-19 in a 4-2 loss to Northern Lakes and 48-11 in an 8-0 loss to East Grand Forks, the Panthers closed the regular season with a four-game winning streak. Park Rapids outshot Eveleth-Gilbert 46-15 in a 2-0 win, Fargo North 31-25 in a 4-1 win, Lake of the Woods 42-24 in an 11-3 win and LPGE/WDC 35-17 in a 2-0 win for a 12-12-1 record.
Detroit Lakes won the Mid-State Conference title with a 4-1-1 record while Northern Lakes was second at 4-2. Park Rapids finished at 3-3 while LPGE/WDC went 0-5-1.
In the Section 8A quarterfinals, the Panthers edged Crookston 2-1 despite being outshot 33-21. Thief River Falls ended the Panthers season with a 55-11 advantage in shots in a 6-0 victory in the semifinals.
For the season, the Panthers scored 73 goals while allowing 81. Park Rapids was shut out eight times and scored only one goal in four other games while shutting out the opponent seven times and allowing only one goal in six other games.
The Panthers went 0-10 against teams with winning records and 13-3-1 against teams with losing records. Of Park Rapids’ 13 losses, three were to Thief River Falls, two were to East Grand Forks, two were to Warroad and one was to West Fargo. Thief River Falls was rated No. 1 in the state Class A poll after the regular season, East Grand Forks was rated No. 2 and was the state runner-up, Warroad was rated No. 6 and West Fargo won the North Dakota state title.
Finishing the season with winning records were East Grand Forks (26-3-1), Thief River Falls (24-2), West Fargo (21-4-1), Warroad (16-10-1) and International Falls (15-9-3) while Northern Lakes (11-14), Detroit Lakes (9-11-4), Mandan (9-15), LPGE/WDC (8-16-1), Crookston (7-17-1), Fargo North (7-18), Eveleth-Gilbert (5-19-2), Morris/Benson (4-15) and Lake of the Woods (1-19) had losing records.
“We set a goal of getting 15 wins, but fell short. There were some games we could have won, but we did tie the school record for wins and eight of our losses were to dynamic teams,” said Vaudrin, whose team tied the school record for wins set in 2001-02 (13-8-1) and last season (13-13). “In the past, we’ve struggled with Crookston, so getting two wins against them was satisfying. The girls achieved some of their goals and were close on others. We ended at .500, tied the school record for wins and won a playoff game at home. I think we did the best we could.”
Leading the Panthers this season were seniors Shania Johnson, Abby Fischer, Kendra Dresow, Mady Vaudrin, Bailee Jerger, Danika Aletto, Christina Smith, Lauren Naeve, Alex Pederson and Julia Renner; junior Jessie O’Hern; sophomores Emma Gribbin, Tayah Otterness and Josey Umthun; freshmen Paige Myhre, Allyson Vaudrin, Brooke Jerger, Serena Aletto, Kalpano Bowe and Julia Smith; and eighth graders Taylor Sagen and Lexi Hinkley-Smith.
Pederson, Vaudrin and Johnson were selected by the Section 8A and Section 8AA coaches to play in the Senior Classic. Johnson, Vaudrin and Aletto were named to the Section 8A Third Team. Pederson and Vaudrin earned Mid-State Conference honors while Johnson and Danika Aletto were all-conference honorable mention players. Pederson had six goals and two assists, Vaudrin had three goals and one assist, Aletto had three assists and Johnson went 3-3 with 11 goals allowed and 148 saves in the six conference games.
Johnson compiled an 11-13-1 record as the starting goalie this season. Johnson allowed 76 goals and made 675 saves with six shutouts. Johnson ended her four-year varsity career with a 36-42-1 record.
Pederson led the Panthers’ offense with 21 goals and 10 assists for 31 points. Pederson moved into the No. 6 spot in school history with 76 points (51 goals, 25 assists).
Vaudrin was second in points with 24 (12 goals, 12 assists) to end her career with 58 points (30 goals, 28 assists).
Gribbin finished third in scoring in her first varsity season with 4 goals and 10 assists for 14 points.
Also producing offensively were Bailee Jerger (5 goals, 4 assists), O’Hern (5 goals, 4 assists), Renner (3 goals, 6 assists), Christina Smith (1 goal, 6 assists), Brooke Jerger (3 goals, 4 assists) and Dresow (5 goals, 2 assists).
Leading the defense were Danika Aletto (3 goals, 4 assists), Naeve (2 goals, 4 assists) and Otterness (1 goal, 5 assists).
The other players who contributed in the scoring column were Sagen (2 goals, 3 assists), Hinkley-Smith (2 goals, 3 assists), Fischer (2 goals, 3 assists), Umthun (2 goals), Allyson Vaudrin (2 assists), Bowe (1 assist), Serena Aletto (1 assist) and Myhre (1 assist). Julia Smith went 2-0 with three goals allowed and 85 saves as the back-up goalie.
Team awards went to Mady Vaudrin (Hobey Baker Award as the team’s Most Valuable Player), Pederson (Most Dedicated and Best Offensive Player), Danika Aletto (Best Defensive Player), Naeve (John Kisner Memorial Award), and Tara Johanning, Kinley Nordin and Olivia Ulvin (Most Improved Players). Fischer and Vaudrin earned all-state academic honors for having at least a 3.80 GPA.
“There is no question we’ll be rebuilding next year with the loss of the 10 seniors. Most of them played varsity for four years. We’re going to miss their leadership and experience,” said Vaudrin. “We have a lot of girls returning who got a lot of experience and have the will to play. We won’t have a lot of depth and we’ll have to rely on some young players, but we should be competitive if the girls put in the work in the off-season. We have to learn the game of hockey and we have to learn how to put the puck in the net to get to the next level. We’re going to be a young team, but hopefully we can weather the storm. If we can do the same as we did this year, next year will be a success.”