Boys Hockey: Park Rapids records first shutout of the season
The Panthers play solid defensively, blank Breckenridge/Wahpeton 6-0 in return to action.
PARK RAPIDS – Five weeks into the season, the Park Rapids-Menahga-Nevis-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team had only played five games.
During that span, four games were postponed in December because of the weather, which meant four practices were also canceled. In his long career as a head coach, Bill Moore hasn’t seen this kind of start to a season.
“This is nothing like I’ve ever experienced,” said Moore. “We’ve been practicing for seven weeks and we’ve only played five games. It’s been tough trying to keep the boys from getting bored. We haven’t had enough games to get a rhythm going.”
After a two-week break for the holidays, the Panthers returned to action with a solid 6-0 Mid-State Conference victory over Breckenridge/Wahpeton at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
The Panthers controlled play, using a 32-10 advantage in shots on goal to improve to 1-2 in conference play and even their overall record at 3-3 with their first shutout of the season.
“I thought our play was a little sloppy, but I was happy that we scored six goals,” said Moore. “I was also happy that we only gave up 10 shots. I thought we played pretty solid on the defensive end.”
It only took the Panthers 53 seconds to open the scoring as Joey Hillukka set up Jeron Pinoniemi. Two goals within 27 seconds gave Park Rapids a 3-0 lead after the first period. Reed Sharp scored at the 14:15 mark with assists by Joey Hillukka and Josh Hillukka while Kale Ravnaas followed with a goal at the 14:42 mark with an assist by Coby Hagen. The Panthers held a 12-4 advantage in shots in the opening period.
After a scoreless second period in which Park Rapids outshot the Blades 9-5, the Panthers sealed the win by using an 11-1 edge in shots to score the final three goals. Conner Hanson and Joey Hillukka set up Pinoniemi 1:54 into the final period and assisted on a goal by Josh Hillukka at the 4:49 mark. Cooper Brovold and Parker Vinge had assists as Hanson concluded the scoring with 1:30 to play.
Goalie Sawyer Torkelson stopped all 10 shots he faced as Breckenridge/Wahpeton fell to 0-2 in the conference and 0-8 overall. The Blades have been outscored 43-4 this season, including being shut out five times.
“I thought we moved the puck really well in the first and third periods. In the second period I thought we played like individuals and not as a team,” said Moore. “We discussed that between the second and third periods and we came back and had a solid third period.”