Park Rapids 12U girls hockey team claims consolation title
Capturing the consolation title at the state B tournament was a perfect ending to a historic season for the Park Rapids 12-under girls hockey team.
After opening the tournament with a 1-0 loss to top-rated Centennial Friday afternoon at Breezy Point Arena in Pequot Lakes, Park Rapids defeated Lakeville 4-0 Saturday and Red Wing 4-3 in overtime Sunday to end the season as the state B consolation champs.
"It was a great weekend for us," said Gary Vaudrin, who coaches the team with Dion Pederson and Scott Johnson. "It was a storybook ending to a wonderful season."
In the tournament opener, Centennial and Park Rapids battled to a scoreless tie before the state's top-rated team scored the only goal in the third period.
"Centennial was a good skating team, but we went toe-to-toe with them," said Vaudrin. "We had four or five great scoring opportunities, but could not get a bounce to go our way. It was a heartbreaker for us and our fans. The girls skated their best game of the year and it was exciting hockey. We just came up short."
In Friday's other first-round games, Princeton edged Lakeville 2-1 in three overtimes, Osseo edged Red Wing 2-1 and Proctor topped Eden Prairie 1-0.
Park Rapids rebounded from that loss by eliminating Lakeville in the consolation semifinals. Goals by Bailee Jerger and Alex Pederson gave Park Rapids a 2-0 lead after the first period. Mady Vaudrin assisted on Jerger's goal. Abby Fischer assisted on a goal by Pederson and Makenna Persing scored on a feed from Pederson in the third period to seal the win. Goalie Shania Johnson made 32 saves.
"We knew this was going to be a tough game. The girls stepped up and did not let the loss to Centennial get them down," said Vaudrin. "Their goal was to get to Sunday to play for hardware. If we lost we were done. We did not want the season to end that way."
Red Wing advanced to the consolation title game with an 8-2 win over Eden Prairie. In the championship bracket, Centennial edged Princeton 2-1 and Proctor shut out Osseo 4-0.
In the consolation championship game, Park Rapids prevailed in a thriller. Vaudrin assisted on a goal by Kendra Dresow as Park Rapids took a 1-0 lead. Red Wing tied the game late in the first period and took a 2-1 lead in the second period. Vaudrin scored to tie it at 2-2 before Red Wing reclaimed a 3-2 lead in the third period. Lauren Naeve set up Persing for the game-tying goal late in the third period to force sudden death. In overtime, Pederson won a faceoff in the Red Wing zone and Vaudrin slapped a shot past the Red Wing goalie for the game-winning goal. Johnson had 22 saves in that game.
Proctor defeated Centennial 6-3 in the title game while Princeton defeated Osseo 3-2 in overtime in the third-place game.
Red Wing entered the state tournament rated No. 2 in the state, followed by Proctor at No. 3, Princeton at No. 4, Lakeville at No. 5, Osseo at No. 6 and Eden Prairie at No. 8.
Park Rapids, which was ranked in the state poll for the first time this season at No. 7 entering the state tournament, ended the year with a 25-6-2 record.
Rounding out the 12U team were Julia Renner, Hannah Gorder, Samantha Wiese, Jessie O'Hern and Abbey Kisner. Julia Smith moved up from the 10U team to serve as the back-up goalie.
The girls 12U team became the first Park Rapids hockey team at any level to play in a state tournament by winning the Olympic Region title on March 8. Park Rapids was also the District 15 champs.