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Panthers top Pirates in playoffs

Mady Vaudrin looked to put a shot on goal during Park Rapids’ Section 8A quarterfinal playoff game against Crookston Thursday night at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena. Vaudrin’s goal helped spark a 2-1 victory.

  The Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley girls hockey team made history by opening the Section 8A playoffs with a 2-1 win over Crookston Thursday night at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena.

     Mady Vaudrin’s power-play goal at the 8:32 mark of the first period, Alex Pederson’s goal at the 6:13 mark of the third period and Shania Johnson’s 32 saves led the Panthers to their first playoff victory since a 4-3 overtime win over Detroit Lakes in 2005. It also was the Panthers’ fifth playoff victory in program history.

     “It was a big win for us,” said Park Rapids head coach Gary Vaudrin. “One of our goals was to win a home playoff game. The girls worked hard for it and deserved it.”

     Vaudrin opened the scoring by picking up a loose puck at center ice and beating Crookston goalie Lexi Cormican.

     Crookston, which held a 10-5 edge in shots in the first period, used a 16-11 edge in shots in the second period to tie the game on Annie Hajostek’s goal at the 7:40 mark.

     Pederson scored the game-winner off a faceoff and the Panthers held on as the Pirates couldn’t take advantage of two power plays down the stretch.

     “We never quit. The girls really worked hard and weren’t going to give up,” said Vaudrin. “They did not want Crookston to end their season at home. We did take too many penalties, which gave them several scoring chances in the second period and at the end of the third period, but our penalty kill has been outstanding. This is credited to all the players on the ice. Our defensemen and forwards played a disciplined system and the play of Shania was big.”

     The win gave the No. 4-seeded Panthers a 13-12-1 record while No. 5 Crookston ended the year with a 7-17-1 mark. Park Rapids went 2-0-1 against the Pirates this season with a 1-1 tie and 2-0 win during the regular season.

     In Thursday night’s other Section 8A quarterfinal, No. 3 Warroad routed No. 6 Lake of the Woods 17-0.

     The Panthers traveled to Warroad Monday night to play No. 1 Thief River Falls in a section semifinal game. Warroad met No. 2 East Grand Forks in the other semifinal Monday night. The Section 8A championship game is Thursday night at Warroad. Thief River Falls is rated No. 1, East Grand Forks is rated No. 2 and Warroad is rated No. 7 in the latest state Class a poll.

     “This section is the toughest in the state,” said Vaudrin. “When you compare the strength and competitive history of Section 8A, it is nice to make it to the next round.”

Crookston                   0    1      0…1

Park Rapids                1    0      1…2

FIRST PERIOD: 1, Park Rapids, Vaudrin, 8:32.

SECOND PERIOD: 1, Crookston, Hajostek (Wahouske), 7:40.

THIRD PERIOD: 2, Park Rapids, Pederson, 6:13.

GOALIE SAVES: Crookston (Cormican) 4-11-4-19. Park Rapids (Johnson) 10-15-7-32.