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Panthers blank Lakers in playoff opener

Head coach Gary Vaudrin talked to his players during a timeout of Thursday night's Section 8A playoff game against Detroit Lakes. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Head coach Gary Vaudrin was expecting another close game against Detroit Lakes in the first round of the Section 8A playoffs Thursday night.

Instead, the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley girls hockey team controlled play and used a five-goal second period to skate to a decisive 6-0 win at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena.

Park Rapids and Detroit Lakes battled through two overtime games during the regular season with the Panthers prevailing 2-1 at Detroit Lakes in the first meeting and settling for a 4-4 tie in the rematch. Detroit Lakes had more shots on goal in both games, outshooting the Panthers 53-27 in the first game and 53-45 in the second game. The win and tie gave Park Rapids the No. 4 seed while Detroit Lakes entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed.

The Lakers once again held the edge in shots, but the decisive second period sparked Park Rapids into the section semifinals.

"I was expecting another tight game, but we had everybody back healthy and I thought if we played our game, we should win," said Vaudrin. "The girls played well. It was a big win for them."

Park Rapids set the tone in the playoff opener when Alexa Kennedy scored just 44 seconds into the game. Lexi Hinkley-Smith and Taylor Pingrey assisted on that goal.

The Panthers took control by scoring five times on 14 shots in the second period. Hinkley-Smith set up goals by Taylor Sagen at the 5:37 mark and Tara Johanning at the 8:25 mark. Paige Myhre set up Sagen's goal while Kennedy had an assist on Johanning's goal. Goals in less than a minute pushed the lead to 5-0. Hinkley-Smith scored at the 12:07 mark and Pingrey scored on a 2-on-1 breakaway at the 12:55 mark. Johanning set up Pingrey's goal. Kennedy and Myhre set up Sagen at the 15:44 mark to cap off the scoring.

Detroit Lakes outshot the Panthers 35-32 as goalie Julia Smith made 35 saves for her first shutout of the season.

The win lifted the Panthers to 9-15-1 while Detroit Lakes ended the season at 4-21-1.

"We put the pressure on them right away in the first period and had an outstanding second period," said Vaudrin. "We controlled the puck, moved the puck around in their zone, did a nice job forechecking and had some break outs. We were able to play our third line in the third period after pouring it on in the second period. The girls were pretty excited."

Park Rapids played No. 1 Warroad and No. 2 East Grand Forks played No. 3 Thief River Falls in the section semifinals Monday night at East Grand Forks. The winners advance to the section championship game on Thursday night.

Detroit Lakes 0 0 0....0

Park Rapids 1 5 0....6

FIRST PERIOD: 1, Park Rapids, Kennedy (Hinkley-Smith, Pingrey), :44. Penalties: Detroit Lakes 1, Park Rapids 2.

SECOND PERIOD: 2, Park Rapids, T. Sagen (Hinkley-Smith, Myhre), 5:37. 3, Park Rapids, Johanning (Hinkley-Smith, Kennedy), 8:25. 4, Park Rapids, Hinkley-Smith, 12:07. 5, Park Rapids, Pingrey (Johanning), 12:55. 6, Park Rapids, T. Sagen (Kennedy, Myhre), 15:44. Penalties: Detroit Lakes 1, Park Rapids 0.

THIRD PERIOD: No scoring. Penalties: Detroit Lakes 1, Park Rapids 0.

GOALIE SAVES: Detroit Lakes (McDougall) 10-5-x--15; (Wheeler) x-4-7--11. Park Rapids (Smith) 11-15-9--35.

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