Working overtime works for Panthers
The Park Rapids-Menahga-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team improved to 3-0 in overtime games with a 2-1 win over Prairie Centre.
Forcing overtime has been a winning formula for the Park Rapids-Menahga-Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys hockey team this season.
For the third time in three games this season, the Panthers prevailed in an extra session. For the second time, Prairie Centre was the victim.
Jack Slagle’s overtime goal gave the Panthers a 2-1 Mid-State Conference win at Sauk Centre’s Civic Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Park Rapids defeated the North Stars by the same score in overtime on Jan. 26 at the Ted O. Johnson Ice Arena.
“That was another great hockey game. Our group is really pulling together and learning what it takes to be successful as a team,” said Park Rapids head coach Derek Ricke. “Knowing how well we played in the third period and our success in overtime this year, the team really expected to win going into overtime. It was great to see that mentality and fun to score on that first shift.”
After a scoreless first period, Eli Fletcher gave Prairie Centre a 1-0 lead with the lone goal in the second period.
Josh Hillukka set up Nash Mitchell at the 2:49 mark of the third period as the Panthers tied the game at 1-1 to force overtime.
The Panthers outshot Prairie Centre 42-33, including 13-9 in the second period and 17-10 in the third period. Both teams failed to score on three power-play opportunities.
Goalie Sawyer Torkelson made 32 saves as the Panthers improved to 2-3 in the conference and 4-4 overall. Prairie Centre fell to 1-5 in conference games and 2-6 overall despite 42 saves by Joe Nedoroscik.
“We have to give credit to Prairie Centre. They played with a lot of intensity and physicality, and it had us off our game a little bit to start,” said Ricke. “Torkelson made some great saves early on to keep us in the game, and that was a huge key. The rest of the team got better as the game went on and we gradually took over. Even once they scored, there was a strong sense of determination and focus on the bench. In the third period we played with a ton of confidence and felt like we controlled the game.”
Playing in close games has become a trademark for the Panthers lately. Park Rapids edged Breckenridge/Wahpeton 2-1 and Bagley/Fosston 5-4 in overtime in addition to the two overtime wins over Prairie Centre while dropping a 1-0 decision to Detroit Lakes in the last six games.
“Five of our last six games have been one-goal games and we've been able to win four of those. We've also had four games in which we held opponents to one goal, which doesn't happen often in high school hockey. That certainly doesn't happen without great goaltending first and foremost, but it's been a total team effort. Our commitment to team defense and discipline has enabled us to limit quality scoring chances and power play opportunities against. The combination of those three is a great recipe for winning hockey games,” said Ricke. “We're hopeful we can take the next step and add a little more goal support, but we're really excited about the growth of this team and where we're headed.”