Boys Hockey: Power-play goals power Park Rapids past Bagley/Fosston
The Panthers open the Section 8A playoffs by rallying for a 6-3 victory.
PARK RAPIDS – Bill Moore wasn’t concerned when the Park Rapids-Menahga-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team trailed 1-0 after the first period in a Section 8A play-in game against Bagley/Fosston at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 22.
The Panthers’ head coach was a little worried when Bagley/Fosston led 3-1 in the second period.
“I thought we dominated the first period. We outshot them 14-6 but couldn’t score and they had a nice goal. I told the guys don’t do anything different,” said Moore. “I was a little concerned about how we would react being down 3-1. When you’re down, the give-up button is there to push. Our guys didn’t give up.”
The Panthers responded by scoring the next five goals to advance with a 6-3 victory.
These two rivals split games during the regular season with Bagley/Fosston prevailing 3-2 in the first game on Dec. 16 and the Panthers winning the rematch 6-4 on Feb. 7 to earn the chance to host the playoff opener as the section’s No. 8 seed.
Moore expected another close game to open the playoffs against the No. 9-seeded Flyers.
“Both teams are pretty evenly matched,” said Moore. “It played out about the way I expected. The big surprise was how well we played on the power play.”
Park Rapids took advantage of 11 penalties by the Flyers to rally for the win.
Markus Olson’s goal with 2:23 to play in the first period gave Bagley/Fosston a 1-0 lead.
Jeron Pinoniemi’s power-play goal 51 seconds into the second period tied the game. Nash Mitchell assisted on that goal. The Flyers responded to claim a 3-1 advantage behind goals by Eric Gerbracht at the 2:13 mark and Logan Merschman at the 5:43 mark.
The Panthers controlled the rest of the game as Liam Torola’s goal at the 8:49 mark, Pinoniemi’s power-play goal at the 10:03 mark and Jaxson Lund’s goal at the 14:05 mark provided a 4-3 edge. Pinoniemi assisted on Torola’s goal, Lund and Torola set up Pinoniemi’s second goal of the game, and Mitchell and Braden Stewart assisted on Lund’s goal.
Two more power-play goals during a penalty-marred third period sealed the win. Joey Hillukka and Pinoniemi received assists on Torola’s goal 3:42 into the final period while Lund set up Mitchell for the final goal with 4:46 to play. Bagley/Fosston took eight penalties while the Panthers had five penalties in the final period.
Goalie Sawyer Torkelson made 20 saves as the Panthers finished with a 32-23 advantage in shots on goal. The senior trio of Lund, Mitchell and Torola combined for four goals and five assists while Pinoniemi contributed four points as Park Rapids improved to 11-14-1. Bagley/Fosston ended the season with a 13-12-1 record.
“This is one game these seniors will remember for a long time,” said Moore. “It was a playoff game against a rival and their last game at their home arena.”
Now the Panthers face the section’s top seed with a quarterfinal game at Warroad on Thursday (Feb. 24). Moore knows his team is a huge underdog, but is counting on his players to put forth maximum effort.
“For us, this is a no-lose situation. No one expects us to win,” said Moore. “I expect the kids to play hard and go out there and have fun and see what happens.”