Senior Night won't be the last home game for the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team after all.
Despite ending the regular season with two losses on home ice, the Panthers will open the Section 8A playoffs by hosting Red Lake Falls at 7 p.m. on Feb. 19 in a play-in game at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena. The Panthers (who enter the playoffs with a 6-18 record) received the No. 8 seed and a home playoff game after defeating No. 9 Red Lake Falls (5-11) in two close games (5-4 in overtime on Jan. 12 and 4-3 on Feb. 5) during the regular season. The winner of that game faces No. 1 East Grand Forks (17-8) in a quarterfinal game at the East Grand Forks Civic Center at 7 p.m. on Feb. 21.
Detroit Lakes prevented the Panthers from entering the playoffs with some momentum with a 6-1 Section 8A and Mid-State Conference victory in Park Rapids' regular-season finale at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena on Feb. 12. The Lakers used a four-goal first period and a 34-15 advantage in shots on goal to sweep the season series after blanking Park Rapids 10-0 on Dec. 11.
The Lakers took control of this game from the start. Nick Lund scored just 26 seconds into the game before Roland Cormier scored at the 3:44 mark and Jake Green scored at the 7:56 mark. Will Green's power-play goal with 2:18 remaining in the first period gave Detroit Lakes the 4-0 advantage.
Braeden Wimmer's power-play goal with 38 seconds left in the second period gave the Lakers a 5-0 lead. Park Rapids spent most of that period on the penalty kill after being whistled for four penalties. The Lakers took three penalties.
The final period was a penalty-marred affair with Park Rapids taking five penalties and the Lakers being whistled for six infractions. The Panthers capitalized on one of those penalties when Jack Slagle scored a power-play goal with 4:34 to play. Brett Pinoniemi and Joshua Crandall assisted on that goal. Detroit Lakes also took advantage of a man advantage when Hunter Burnside concluded the scoring with a power-play goal with 2:42 remaining.
Goalie Brendan Kruchowski finished with 28 saves as the Panthers fell to 4-11 in section games and 1-7 in conference games. Park Rapids went 1 for 6 on the power play while the Lakers scored on three of seven chances with a man advantage. The win gave Detroit Lakes the conference title with a 6-0-1 record while improving to 4-4 against section opponents. Prairie Centre finished second in the Mid-State standings at 6-1-1 while Northern Lakes went 3-3-1 and Wadena-Deer Creek finished at 1-6-1.
In the other section play-in game on Feb. 19, No. 7 Kittson Central (15-7) hosts No. 10 Bagley/Fosston (8-14). The winner of that game travels to No. 2 Thief River Falls (14-7-3) on Feb. 21. The other quarterfinal games pit No. 3 Warroad (13-9-2) against No. 6 Lake of the Woods (9-15) and No. 4 Crookston (8-15-1) against No. 5 Detroit Lakes. The section semifinals will be played Feb. 23 at East Grand Forks with the championship game set for Feb. 28 at East Grand Forks.
Thief River Falls is rated No. 4, East Grand Forks is rated No. 6 and Warroad is rated No. 9 in this week's state Class A poll. Thief River Falls shut out East Grand Forks 4-0 in last year's section championship game.
Detroit Lakes 4 1 1...6
Park Rapids 0 0 1...1
FIRST PERIOD: 1, Detroit Lakes, Lund (W. Green), :26. 2, Detroit Lakes, Cormier (Kovash, Stowman), 3:44. 3, Detroit Lakes, J. Green (Roe, Zajac), 7:56. 4, Detroit Lakes, W. Green (Bren, Wimmer), 14:42. Penalties: Detroit Lakes 1, Park Rapids 2.
SECOND PERIOD: 5, Detroit Lakes, Wimmer (Bren), 16:22. Penalties: Detroit Lakes 3, Park Rapids 4.
THIRD PERIOD: 1, Park Rapids, Slagle (Pinoniemi, Crandall), 12:26. 6, Detroit Lakes, Burnside (Carlbom), 14:18. Penalties: Detroit Lakes 6, Park Rapids 5.
GOALIE SAVES: Detroit Lakes (Hines) 7-5-2--14. Park Rapids (Kruchowski) 8-11-9--28.