Elusive Coborn skates to record
Opponents of the Park Rapids boys hockey team have found it nearly impossible to shut down Sam Coborn.
The only thing that prevented Coborn from scoring or setting up goals during his four-year varsity career was a concussion suffered while crashing head-first into the boards in the first period of a game against Thief River Falls on Jan. 10.
The junior center missed the next six games before returning to action on Jan. 31 against Prairie Centre. Coborn had a goal and an assist in his return and followed with two goals and an assist in a 3-2 win over Red Lake Falls to become the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Park Rapids boys hockey program.
Entering the season, Coborn had 173 career points for the No. 3 spot in school history. Coborn passed Tyler Lehrke's mark of 192 with a goal and three assists in a 5-4 loss to Crookston on Dec. 20 before breaking Zach Lehrke's record of 212 last week.
"I only needed 40 points this year, so I thought I would get it," said Coborn, who had two goals and four assists last Saturday in a 6-2 win over Greenway to raise his career total to 220 points. "It feels good to be mentioned with Tyler and Zach. They were fun to watch. It's an honor to break their record."
"Sam's been a fun player to coach and a fun player to watch," said Park Rapids head coach Pete Stahnke. "Sam is a game-changer. He's so elusive. He can stick handle through a crowd and evade hits. He has a knack for the puck and for knowing where he needs to be. He also has the will to win. He cares more about winning games than he cares about personal records."
Coborn proved to be a scoring threat from the start. In 95 varsity games over four years, Coborn had at least one point in 81 of them.
As a freshman, Coborn scored 15 goals and assisted on 24 others for 39 points. Coborn finished second on the team in scoring that year and scored at least one point in 21 of the 27 games. He had four assists in one game and three assists in another.
In 26 games as a sophomore, Coborn had at least one point in 24 of them, highlighted by an 8-point game (five goals, three assists). Coborn also had a pair of 6-point games and three 5-point games during that season. Coborn tallied three hat tricks (including two games with five goals) and had at least three assists in seven games (including five assists once and four assists three times). Coborn led the Panthers in scoring that season with 30 goals and 40 assists for 70 points, which is the third-highest single-season total in school history.
"I didn't really think about (the record) until I got to 100 points my sophomore year," said Coborn. "I thought if I could get 100 points in my first two years, I could get another 100 points my last two years."
Coborn again led the Panthers in scoring during his junior season with 35 goals and 29 assists for 64 points. He had a pair of 6-point games and had 5 points in four other games. Coborn tallied five hat tricks last season (including a four-goal game) and had four games with at least three assists (highlighted by a four-assist game). In 26 games, Coborn had at least one point in 23 of them.
Coborn continued that scoring streak this season by scoring at least one point in 10 of the first 12 games. He had three 6-point games, scoring four goals once and tallying hat tricks and three assists in back-to-back games. In the first 12 games, Coborn led the Panthers with 16 goals and 20 assists.
The chase for the record was postponed when Coborn suffered his concussion. Including the Thief River Falls game (a 2-1 loss), Coborn sat out seven games in which the Panthers went 3-4. Park Rapids also lost to Northern Lakes (3-1), Crookston (6-0) and Lake of the Woods (2-0) during that stretch.
"Sitting out with the concussion was hard. It was hard to watch those games. We had a lot of big games and we lost a couple close games. I wanted to be there for the team. It was so hard knowing that I could have made an impact," said Coborn. "I got knocked out (in the TRF game), so I had to sit out a little longer than I wanted to. I guess it was smart to play it safe. I'm good to go now."
After returning to action following the concussion, Coborn racked up five goals and six assists in the next three games to break the school scoring record. The Panthers won all three games.
Before that injury, Coborn was on pace to break Zach Lehrke's school record of 113 goals. Coborn has 101 goals with three regular-season games remaining. Coborn does hold the school record with 119 assists. Tyler Lehrke held the old record of 103. Zach Lehrke, who only played three varsity seasons, still holds the school record for goals (54), assists (45) and points (99) in a season.
"I wanted to get the goals record. I had a chance until I got hurt. But I'm happy with the (scoring) record," said Coborn. "Coming in as a freshman I was more focused on offense. As I've gotten older, I've become a more complete player. I'm a pass-first, shoot-second guy. I guess my role is to make plays."
With his senior season coming to an end, Coborn still has one more goal to accomplish. With three games remaining, the Panthers are 10-12 and battling to get as high a seed as possible for the Section 8A playoffs. Coborn would like to end his high school career with a winning record this season and a spot in the Section 8A finals for the first time in school history.
"When I came back, I wanted us to go undefeated the rest of the (regular) season," said Coborn. "I think we can play with all the teams in the section. Winning our first playoff game would be huge for this team. Hopefully we can win the first one and grind it out and win the next one and go from there."
After high school, Coborn is expecting to play junior hockey somewhere. The ultimate goal is to join the Lehrkes and play Division I hockey.
"I'm going to play juniors for sure next year. I've already talked to a couple of teams that are interested," said Coborn. "Everyone wants to play Division I after high school and that's what I'm working towards. I just need the right person see me. Hopefully I'll get lucky and have someone watching one night when I have a good game."
"Sam has a gift. He definitely has the capability and skill to play at the next level," said Stahnke. "The way he plays the game will be a definite advantage for him at the next level. I can definitely see him playing D-I hockey."