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Panthers skate to 16-7-3 overall record

Park Rapids senior goalie Cody Brumbaugh (35) went 16-7-3 this season to raise his career record to 43-28-6 en route to earning Section 8A, Northwest Conference and Mid-State Conference honors.1 / 2
Park Rapids senior Noah MacPherson shared the team lead with 36 points to surpass 100 career points and earn all-conference honors.2 / 2

     Pete Stahnke thought the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team had the talent to produce a winning record, capture both conference titles and earn a top-four seed and a home game to open the Section 8A playoffs.

     For the 11th time with Stahnke as head coach, the Panthers hit double digits in wins and produced a winning record for the ninth time during that span by going 16-7-3. The 16 wins are tied for the fifth most in school history.

     Unfortunately, five losses or ties to teams with losing records and only five wins against teams with winning marks prevented the Panthers from securing a home playoff game. Park Rapids was awarded the No. 6 seed and saw its season end with a 5-0 loss to No. 3 Thief River Falls in the section quarterfinals, marking the fifth time in the last six years and the eighth time in the last 11 years that the Panthers failed to reach the section semifinals.

     “Overall I thought the kids did a good job,” said Stahnke. “We had set our goals higher, but we let a few games slip away. Overall I thought it was a good year.”

     East Grand Forks held a 51-5 advantage in shots over the Panthers in a 5-0 win to open the season. East Grand Forks was rated No. 3 in the pre-season poll, but ended the season rated No. 1 and defeated Hermantown 7-3 in the state Class A title game.

     The Panthers dominated Bagley/Fosston with a 73-7 advantage in shots in a 14-0 win and followed with a 4-3 win over Detroit Lakes despite being outshot 41-26. Dominating wins over Wadena-Deer Creek and Lake of the Woods followed as the Panthers jumped out to a 4-1 start. Park Rapids held a 40-20 edge in shots in a 7-1 win over W-DC and used a 41-21 advantage in shots to shut out LOW 5-0.

     Crookston held a 47-23 edge in shots, but the Panthers were able to rally for a 3-3 tie. Wins over Northern Lakes and Willmar and a 2-1 showing at the Fergus Falls tournament gave the Panthers an 8-2-1 record and the No. 25 ranking in the state Class A poll.

     Park Rapids outshot Northern Lakes 39-12 in a 4-2 win and defeated Willmar 4-2 despite being outshot 40-20. After being outshot 44-18 in a 4-2 loss to West Fargo, the Panthers rebounded to defeat Fergus Falls 4-2 and New Ulm 4-2 to cap off the holiday tournament. Both Fergus Falls (32-21) and New Ulm (29-26) outshot the Panthers.

     Thief River Falls used a 43-18 advantage in shots for a 3-1 win in a key section game. Thief River Falls was rated No. 10 in the state at that time.

     The Panthers dominated play in their next two games with an 8-0 win over Wadena-Deer Creek and a disappointing 0-0 tie with Red Lake Falls. Park Rapids held a 43-12 advantage in shots against W-DC and a 55-11 advantage against Red Lake Falls.

     After being outshot 35-27 in a 3-1 win over Prairie Centre and holding a 50-10 advantage in shots in a 2-1 win over Northern Lakes, the Panthers had to settle for a 3-3 tie with Greenway despite holding a 44-22 advantage in shots. Crookston then used a 36-20 edge in shots to defeat the Panthers 3-2 in overtime.

     Park Rapids was in position to earn the No. 4 seed for the section playoffs by winning five of its next six games.

     The Panthers defeated Lake of the Woods 6-4 despite being outshot 26-24 and followed with a 5-1 win over Red Lake Falls with a 46-24 advantage in shots.

     Kittson Central used a 35-17 edge in shots to spark a 5-3 victory before the Panthers responded with a 27-19 edge in shots in a 3-1 win over Prairie Centre, a 68-3 advantage in shots in a 9-0 win over Bagley/Fosston and a 36-28 edge in shots in a 3-2 win over Kittson Central.

     Detroit Lakes ended the Panthers’ bid to earn the No. 4 seed with a 3-0 win in the regular-season finale. Detroit Lakes used a 39-19 advantage in shots to drop the Panthers to the No. 6 spot.

     Thief River Falls controlled play in the quarterfinals as a 42-12 advantage in shots sparked a 5-0 win.

     Park Rapids did share the Mid-State Conference title with Detroit Lakes as both teams went 7-1. Prairie Centre finished at 4-4, Northern Lakes went 2-6 and W-DC ended 0-8 in conference play.

     In the Northwest Conference, the Panthers claimed the title by going 6-1-1. Kittson Central finished 6-2 while Lake of the Woods (3-3-2), Red Lake Falls (2-3-3) and Bagley/Fosston (0-8) followed.

     The Panthers went 5-5 against teams with winning records and 11-2-3 against the other teams. Of Park Rapids’ 16 wins, only New Ulm (17-11), Detroit Lakes (17-8-1), Kittson Central (16-6-2) and Prairie Centre (16-11) had winning records. Finishing the season with .500 or losing records were Red Lake Falls (11-11-4), Willmar (12-13-1), Fergus Falls (10-14-1), Northern Lakes (9-17), Lake of the Woods (6-18-3), W-DC (4-21-1) and Bagley/Fosston (2-21). The Panthers lost to West Fargo (10-17) and Crookston (7-16-4) while tying Crookston, Red Lake Falls and Greenway (6-17-3). East Grand Forks (28-2-1) and Thief River Falls (15-11-1) also had winning records.

     For the season, the Panthers scored 98 goals while allowing 55. Park Rapids shut out the opponent five times while being shut out four times.

     “We beat some good teams this year and we won the Northwest Conference and were co-champs in the Mid-State Conference,” said Stahnke. “Losing to DL in the last game of the year was a little disappointing. That dropped us from the No. 4 seed to the No. 6 seed. We were so close to getting the No. 4 seed. The kids have to believe that we can win those big games.”

     Leading the Panthers this season were seniors Cody Brumbaugh, Noah MacPherson, Luke Jaeger, Drew Bade, Jamie Stewart, Ryan DeLaHunt, Bailey Mueller, Raul Garcia and Cody Koebernick; juniors Connor Kennedy, Dylan Weaver, Zach Hagen and Craig Walters; sophomores Kiefer Miller, Matt DeLaHunt, Matt Bade, Micah Barrett and Cole Coborn; and freshman Chase Brand.

     Brumbaugh was named to the Section 8A, Mid-State Conference and Northwest Conference teams after playing in all 26 games and going 16-7-3 as the starting goalie. Brumbaugh allowed 54 goals while making 668 saves for a save percentage of 92.5. Against section teams, Brumbaugh went 7-5-2 during the regular season, making 377 saves and allowing 31 goals. In Mid-State play, Brumbaugh was 7-1 with 12 goals allowed and 176 saves. Brumbaugh went 6-1-1 against Northwest opponents, allowing 11 goals while making 140 saves. Brumbaugh went 43-28-6 in his four-year career to tie Mark Smith’s school record for career wins by a goalie. Smith had a 43-9-3 career record.

     MacPherson earned Mid-State and Northwest honors and moved into the No. 10 spot on the Panthers’ career scoring list. MacPherson shared the team lead with 36 points, scoring 15 goals and tallying 21 assists for 108 career points to become the 12th player in school history to surpass 100 points.

     Kennedy also tallied 36 points this season with 15 goals and 21 assists and was also named to the Mid-State and Northwest teams.

     Miller (1 goal, 23 assists for 24 points) and Stewart (10 goals, 9 assists for 19 points) led the defense and received Northwest honors. Stewart was also named to the Mid-State team while Miller earned Mid-State honorable mention honors.

     Brand was third on the team in scoring with 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points while Jaeger was fourth in scoring with 16 goals and 10 assists for 26 points. Jaeger received Mid-State Conference honors while Brand received Mid-State honorable mention honors.

     MacPherson had 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists), Kennedy had 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists), Miller had 11 points (11 assists) and Stewart had 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) in the eight Northwest Conference games. In the eight Mid-State Conference games, Jaeger (10 goals, 5 assists), Kennedy (5 goals, 9 assists), MacPherson (3 goals, 6 assists), Brand (5 goals, 4 assists), Miller (1 goal, 7 assists) and Stewart (2 goals, 1 assist) led the Panthers.

     Also playing key roles for the Panthers this season were forwards Drew Bade (9 goals, 13 assists for 22 points), Matt DeLaHunt (5 goals, 5 assists for 10 points), Weaver (1 goal, 8 assists for 9 points), Garcia (4 goals, 2 assists for 6 points), Barrett (3 assists), Walters (1 goal, 2 assists), Koebernick (1 goal, 1 assist), Matt Bade (2 goals) and Coborn (1 assist) and defensemen Ryan DeLaHunt (1 goal, 8 assists for 9 points), Mueller (2 goals, 5 assists for 7 points) and Hagen (3 assists).

     Ryan DeLaHunt received the team’s Hobey Baker Award, MacPherson was named the Outstanding Panther Hockey Player, Drew Bade received the Matt Spangler Award, Matt Bade was named the Most Improved Player and Jaeger received a Coaches Award.

     Looking ahead to next season, the Panthers have nine key spots to fill. Even with those losses, Stahnke believes the Panthers will put another competitive group on the ice next winter.

     “We want to get to the next level and be in the top three in the section,” said Stahnke. “Next year will be a growing year for us with the loss of all our seniors. Our goal next year is to be above .500 and win the conference titles again. I’m excited for next year. People might think we’re going to be rebuilding, but I think we’ll be fine.”