Bagley/Fosston jumped out to a 5-1 lead after the first period and scored the game’s final three goals to seal an 8-4 win over the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team in the season opener at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
Jack Slagle’s goal just 44 seconds into the game gave Park Rapids a 1-0 lead. Joey Hillukka assisted on that goal.
The Flyers responded by scoring on three consecutive shots in a span of 1:53. Logan Merschman scored at the 1:45 mark and again at the 3:26 mark before Isaac Schermerhorn scored at the 3:38 mark to give Bagley/Fosston a 3-1 lead. Merschman completed his hat trick with his third goal at the 8:18 mark before Tanner Levin scored a power-play goal at the 12:39 mark as the Flyers held a 15-7 edge in shots in the opening period.
“It’s tough when you dig yourself a hole early,” said Park Rapids head coach Derek Ricke. “Our younger guys had some nerves early, but their confidence started building as the game went on. They started playing hockey and we started to take over the game.”
Park Rapids controlled play in the second period, using an 11-7 edge in shots to cut the gap to 5-3. Joshua Crandall set up Josh Kuhlman at the 2:47 mark before Caden Opheim scored on a scrum in front of the net at the 15:00 mark. Alec Nordin and Nash Mitchell assisted on Opheim’s power-play goal as the Panthers capitalized on a 5-on-3 advantage.
Hillukka assisted on Slagle’s second goal of the game as the Panthers made it 5-4 just 2:53 into the third period. However, Bagley/Fosston responded with a goal by Alex Rolfson 50 seconds later and a power-play goal by Levin at the 4:57 mark. Benjamin Gerbracht’s goal at the 11:20 mark concluded the scoring as the Flyers prevailed despite being outshot 14-9 in the final period.
“It was a roller coaster, but I was proud of how we battled back,” said Ricke. “This is a young team and it was encouraging to see the guys battle back and chip away at the lead. We generated enough scoring chances to put ourselves in a good spot. We were down early, but we gave ourselves an opportunity to win that game.”
Collin Hoyt started in the nets for the Panthers and gave up three goals. Sawyer Torkelson took over in the first period and allowed five goals while making 23 saves. Bagley/Fosston goalie Brycen Olson made 28 saves, including 13 in the third period.
The Panthers held a 32-31 edge in shots on goal in this battle between Section 8A rivals.
“This will be a building block for us,” said Ricke. “The guys learned a lot. The key is to learn from it and build on it. I’m excited to see how this young group responds.”