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Panthers pick up key win over Pirates

Kylee Pachel made one of her 30 saves during the Panthers' 4-2 win over Crookston Tuesday night. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

After trailing 2-1 midway through the second period, the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley girls hockey team took control for a key 4-2 Section 8A victory over Crookston Tuesday night at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena.

Crookston held a 14-12 advantage in shots in the first period before the Panthers used 19-8 advantages in the final two periods to sweep the season series and snap a 14-game losing streak.

Alexa Kennedy opened the scoring at the 15:20 mark of the first period on assists from Tara Johanning and Abigale Strandlie before Crookston tied it at 1-1 48 seconds later on a goal by Catherine Tiedemann.

The Pirates claimed a 2-0 lead on Samantha Sanders' goal at the 9:37 mark of the second period before Park Rapids tied it at 2-2 when Kennedy and Johanning set up Lexi Hinkley-Smith at the 12:02 mark.

Katie Sagen's power-play goal at the 7:48 mark of the third period proved to be the game-winner. Hinkley-Smith added an empty-net goal with 1:28 to play to seal the win.

Goalie Kylee Pachel made 28 saves as the Panthers finished with a 50-30 advantage in shots. The 50 shots were a season high, easily topping the previous high of 33 in a 7-4 loss to Jamestown.

"After the first period, we adjusted in the locker room and came out a totally different team, taking charge. The girls started to work well together and communicate effectively both on the ice and on the bench," said Park Rapids head coach Erik Myhre. "It all started with our forecheck pinning Crookston in their own defensive zone. That effort allowed us to outshoot them in both the second and third periods. This cut down our skating the full sheet for extended time periods, which helped our short bench. In comparison, we traded them shot for shot in the first period. It was an all-around team win being able to run our third line in rotation to gain needed rest."

Park Rapids, which defeated Crookston 4-2 at Thief River Falls on Nov. 24, improved to 2-7 in Section 8A play and 3-17 overall and secured the No. 5 seed in the section. Crookston fell to 0-7 in section games and 3-16 overall. Warroad (5-0-1 in the section, 13-3-2 overall), Thief River Falls (6-1 in the section, 13-2-2 overall) and East Grand Forks (5-2-1 in the section, 13-6-1 overall) have locked up the top-three seeds in the section while Detroit Lakes (3-4 in the section, 6-14 overall) will be the No. 4 seed. Detroit Lakes defeated the Panthers 2-1 on Nov. 28 and 4-1 on Dec. 12.

"This win allows us to avoid going up against East Grand Forks, Thief River Falls or Warroad in the first round of sections. It appears Detroit Lakes will be our opponent in the first round of sections. We have played them competitively in the last two meetings and it will come down to who has improved the most throughout the season and who wants to move on," said Myhre. "It is important for us to build on this win moving forward."

Crookston 1 1 0...2

Park Rapids 1 1 2...4

FIRST PERIOD: 1, Park Rapids, Kennedy (Johanning, Strandlie), 15:20. 1, Crookston, Tiedemann (Epema), 16:08. Penalties: None.

SECOND PERIOD: 2, Crookston, Sanders (Salentine), 9:37. 2, Park Rapids, Hinkley-Smith (Kennedy, Johanning), 12:02. Penalties: None.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, Park Rapids, K. Sagen, 7:48. 4, Park Rapids, Hinkley-Smith, 15:32. Penalties: Crookston 1, Park Rapids 1.

GOALIE SAVES: Crookston (Jobe) 11-18-17--46. Park Rapids (Pachel) 13-7-8--28.