Panthers open playoffs with 5-4 win over Lakers

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Even though Detroit Lakes had defeated the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley girls hockey team twice during the regular season, head coach Erik Myhre was confident his team could avenge those losses in the opening round of the Section 8A playoffs.

Led by three power-play goals, the Panthers defeated Detroit Lakes when it counted by overcoming a 3-0 deficit for a 5-4 quarterfinal victory Thursday night at the Kent Freeman Arena.

"It was a huge win, to say the least, on DL's home ice. It was a win we have been looking for all along that has eluded us time and time again," said Myhre. "I knew we were more than capable of beating the Lakers, but we just needed to find that jump in our skates to do so."

During the regular season, the Lakers used a 61-14 advantage in shots to spark a 2-1 win at Park Rapids on Nov. 28 and relied on a 51-18 advantage in shots for a 4-1 victory at Detroit Lakes on Dec. 12.

Detroit Lakes continued that trend in the first period of the section opener as a 16-6 advantage in shots produced a 3-0 lead. Emma Coley opened the scoring at the 6:48 mark, Karrigan Hallisey scored at the 11:43 mark and Abagail King scored at the 15:04 mark to give the Lakers the early lead.

Despite being outshot 15-5 in the second period, the Panthers got back in the game when Madelyn Ackerman assisted on a power-play goay by Lexi Hinkley-Smith at the 9:27 mark and Taylor Sagen and Paige Myhre assisted on a goal by Ackerman 48 seconds later as Park Rapids trailed 3-2 entering the third period.

Detroit Lakes continued to fire shots on net and held a 4-3 lead with 8:18 to play. Sagen set up Alexa Kennedy's goal 3:58 into the final period to tie the game at 3-3 before the Lakers regained the lead on Hallisey's second goal of the game at the 8:42 mark. Sagen's power-play goal at the 9:29 mark tied the game at 4-4 as Myhre and Kennedy received assists. The Lakers took another checking penalty and the Panthers took advantage as Abigale Strandlie assisted on another power-play goal by Hinkley-Smith at the 10:17 mark. That proved to be the game-winner as the Panthers prevented Detroit Lakes from scoring on the power play in the final 3:25. The Lakers failed to score on four power-play chances in the game while Park Rapids scored on all three power-play opportunities.

Goalie Kylee Pachel made 51 saves, including 23 in the third period, as the No. 5-seeded Panthers improved to 4-21 on the season. Detroit Lakes, the No. 4 seed, ends the season with an 8-18 record.

"We came out flat, giving up three goals in the first period. In the second period, we found that click fresh out of the locker room and closed the gap. Coming out of the locker room, you could feel a sense that enough is enough by the girls. In the third, we found success," said Myhre. "We killed off all four penalties without giving up a goal. Kylee rose to the occasion along with some nice neutral zone play that kept them out of our end. This win is attributed to the girls standing up and really taking charge after the first period. I give the win to the girls' heart and belief that they could take control."

With the win, the Panthers advance to play at Warroad Monday night (Feb. 12) in the semifinals. Warroad is the No. 1 seed and the top-rated team among Class A teams with a 20-3-2 record. The Warriors defeated Park Rapids 13-0 on Nov. 14.

"We will be facing Warroad on their home ice," said Myhre. "This is a monstrous Olympic-sized arena that does not bode well for shorthanded teams. When our legs give out, we will have to rely on our hearts to keep going."

Park Rapids 0 2 3...5

Detroit Lakes 3 0 1...4

FIRST PERIOD: 1, Detroit Lakes, Coley (Carlblom), 6:48. 2, Detroit Lakes, Hallisey, 11:43. 3, Detroit Lakes, King, 15:04. Penalties: Park Rapids 2, Detroit Lakes 0.

SECOND PERIOD: 1, Park Rapids, Hinkley-Smith (Ackerman), 9:27. 2, Park Rapids, Ackerman (T. Sagen, Myhre), 10:15. Penalties: Park Rapids 1, Detroit Lakes 1.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, Park Rapids, Kennedy (T. Sagen), 3:58. 4, Detroit Lakes, Hallisey (Carlblom), 8:42. 4, Park Rapids, T. Sagen (Myhre, Kennedy), 9:29. 5, Park Rapids, Hinkley-Smith (Strandlie), 10:17. Penalties: Park Rapids 1, Detroit Lakes 2.

GOALIE SAVES: Park Rapids (Pachel) 13-15-23--51. Detroit Lakes (McDougall) 6-3-7--16.