Panthers battled up-and-down season

For the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team, success during the regular season didn't translate into success during the postseason.

Kiefer Miller
Kiefer Miller capped off his senior season by earning Mid-State Conference and Section 8A honors.

     For the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team, success during the regular season didn’t translate into success during the postseason.

     The Panthers struggled through an up-and-down season by producing a winning record during the regular season by going 5-2-1 to finish second in the Mid-State Conference standings and going 13-11-1 to earn the No. 6 seed for the Section 8A playoffs.

     In a first-round play-in game, No. 11 Kittson Central avenged two losses during the regular season to eliminate the Panthers from the section playoffs with a 3-0 victory. That was the fifth time the Panthers were shut out in ending with a 13-12-1 record.

     “The season didn’t end how we wanted it to end,” said Park Rapids head coach Pete Stahnke. “That was a huge disappointment to everyone.”

     Park Rapids opened the roller-coaster season with a 5-1 loss to East Grand Forks before defeating Prairie Centre 9-1 and St. Paul Como Park 4-1. Losses to St. Paul Johnson (4-2) and Detroit Lakes (6-2) followed before the Panthers defeated Wadena-Deer Creek (4-2) and Lake of the Woods (1-0 in overtime). East Grand Forks held a 43-9 advantage in shots while the Panthers outshot Prairie Centre 50-10 and Como Park 29-24. St. Paul Johnson used a 46-20 advantage in shots and Detroit Lakes held a 34-26 edge in shots in their wins while the Panthers outshot W-DC 35-19 and LOW 62-11.


     After an 8-0 loss to Crookston and a 4-4 tie with Northern Lakes, the Panthers went 1-2 at the Roseau Holiday Classic with a 5-2 loss to Devils Lake, a 3-2 win over Faribault and an 8-0 loss to Minot. Crookston (37-15), Devils Lake (49-26) and Minot (46-29) held the advantage in shots while the Panthers outshot Northern Lakes 41-34 and Faribault 32-23.

     Thief River Falls used a 43-12 advantage in shots for a 10-0 win before the Panthers strung together a four-game winning streak by defeating W-DC (6-5 in overtime), Red Lake Falls (5-3), Bagley/Fosston (6-0) and Northern Lakes (3-2). Park Rapids outshot W-DC (35-23), Red Lake Falls (42-10), Bagley (47-20) and Northern Lakes (40-13) in those wins.

     A three-game losing streak followed as the Panthers dropped section games to Warroad (3-0), Crookston (5-3) and Lake of the Woods (2-1). Warroad held a 29-11 advantage in shots while the Panthers outshot Crookston 49-31 and Lake of the Woods 34-27.

     Park Rapids responded with a four-game winning streak by defeating Prairie Centre (7-0), Kittson Central (5-2), Red Lake Falls (4-1) and Kittson Central again (5-1) before ending the regular season with a 4-2 loss to Detroit Lakes. Park Rapids outshot Prairie Centre 35-26, Kittson Central 32-22 in the first game, Red Lake Falls 48-19 and Kittson Central 47-21 in the second game while Detroit Lakes held a 31-27 edge in shots.

     Detroit Lakes won the Mid-State Conference title by going 8-0 while Northern Lakes (3-4-1), W-DC (3-5) and Prairie Centre (0-8) followed the Panthers in the conference standings. Park Rapids went 7-7-1 against section opponents during the regular season.

     Kittson Central was outshot 47-28, but still managed to upset the Panthers in the playoff opener. Thief River Falls defeated East Grand Forks 3-1 in the section title game and went on to place third at the state Class A tournament. Thief River Falls (No. 6), East Grand Forks (No. 11) and Warroad (No. 22) were rated in the final state Class A poll.

     “We had an up-and-down season,” said Stahnke. “When we played as a team, we could beat anybody. When we played as individuals, we struggled. The season was a disappointment based on our goals and expectations.”

     Leading the way for the Panthers this season were senior Kiefer Miller and junior Chase Brand. Both received Section 8A and Mid-State Conference honors.


     Brand led the Panthers in scoring with 32 goals and 36 assists for 68 points in 26 games. The 68 points were the fourth most in a single season for the Panthers, trailing Zach Lehrke (99), Tyler Lehrke (79) and Sam Coborn (70). Brand now ranks No. 4 in career scoring in school history with 64 goals and 93 assists for 157 points to trail Coborn (228 points), Zach Lehrke (212 points) and Tyler Lehrke (192 points).

     Miller led the Panthers’ defensive unit and finished second in points with 32, highlighted by 11 goals and 21 assists. Miller concluded his career with 94 points on 31 goals and 63 assists.

     Also playing key roles for the Panthers this season were seniors Matt DeLaHunt, Cole Coborn, Matt Bade, Micah Barrett and Joe Entwistle; juniors Jarrett Johnson, Austin Jerger, Isaac Johnson, Caleb Strandlie, Cole Hoscheid and Jack Naugle; sophomores Shea Alto, Josh Baker, Jack Herman and Zach Severtson; and freshman Bjorn Jorgenson.

     Jarrett Johnson also received Mid-State Conference honors while DeLaHunt, Barrett and Jerger received all-conference honorable mention honors.

     Jarrett Johnson was third in scoring with 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points, DeLaHunt followed with four goals and 16 assists for 20 points, and Coborn had seven goals and nine assists for 16 points. Isaac Johnson also hit double figures with four goals and seven assists for 11 points.

     Also contributing offensively were Bade (one goal, eight assists), Barrett (two goals, six assists), Strandlie (one goal, two assists), Alto (one goal, two assists), Hoscheid (one goal, one assist), Jorgenson (one goal, one assist), Baker (two assists), Herman (one goal, one assist), Severtson (one goal) and Naugle (one assist).

     Jerger started all 26 games in the nets, going 13-12-1 with 618 saves and 84 goals allowed. Reserve freshman goalie Brandon Kruchowski allowed three goals and made 12 saves in limited time.

     Brand received the team’s Outstanding Panther award, DeLaHunt received the Matt Spangler award, Barrett received the Hobey Baker award and sophomore Connor Link was named Most Improved.


     “I expect us to be a lot more competitive next season. We need to get the kids to play as a team,” said Stahnke. “If we play more focused and team-oriented, we’ll be very competitive in the conference and section.”

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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