Lakers, Panthers set for tense rematch in 8A opener Thursday
The air will be thick with tension at Thursday night’s Section 8A Girls opening round hockey matchup between No. 5 Detroit Lakes and No. 4 Park Rapids Area on Panther home ice.
Both regular season meetings went to overtime
“It is going to be a very competitive game,” Laker head coach Gretchen Norby said. “Obviously, we are two pretty evenly-matched teams.”
Panther sophomore Alexa Kennedy found the back of the net late in the extra session at Detroit Lakes Nov. 29 to send the Lakers to a fourth consecutive defeat by a score of 2-1. Panthers’ goalie Julia Smith was the star of the game stopping 52 of 53 Detroit Lakes shots.
Two weeks later, DL ended a winless drought of eight games with four goals, two on the power play, and held a one-goal lead in both intermissions. Karrigan Hallisey scored at even strength and Abagail King tallied shorthanded late in the third period for a 4-3 lead, only to see Taylor Sagen even the score a minute later leading to a scoreless overtime.
Both games have featured 40+ shots from each team. Success on Thursday will be found by capitalizing on those opportunities under pressure.
“We need to get the puck to the net and execute on the scoring opportunities that we get and then on the other end we need to take care of our defensive zone and limit their opportunities,” said Norby. “They have a couple kids that can shoot the puck if we let them, we hope to stay close to them and take away their time and space.”
Kennedy and Sagen lead the Panther attack with 28 (15-13) and 25 (11-14) points, respectively.
The Lakers’ leading scorer Jamie Bollig transitioned from defense to the front line in her senior season and has nine goals and six assists. King is second with 13 points (8-5).
“We are a little nervous but ready to play,” said Bollig “We are coming in as the underdogs with the fifth seed so we are ready to take it to them. It’s going to be a close game but we are hoping to pull away with a ‘W’. We have nothing to lose and are ready to work hard and hopefully make it further into sections.”
DL is 1-2-1 in four overtime games and enters the playoffs having picked up that victory Jan. 31 at Crookston 3-2 in the extra session. King had the game-winner; Bollig scored shorthanded late in the third.
Bollig’s speed and ability to set up plays and King’s tenacity to work herself into space to shoot will be key to involving their teammates in a game that could come down to one play.
“One area we struggled with in regular season was playing three periods of a hockey game,” Norby said. “That will be crucial tomorrow, we cannot afford to take any periods, minutes, shifts off. We will look to focus on one period at a time and take care of business.”
To do that, Norby has implored her team on the need to grab control early.
“I've stressed with the girls at practice this week that we need to set the tone of the game,” she said. “We tend to wait and let the other team do that and we really need to get out there and take control of the game from the start. We will also need to play with composure, whether it is a physical/chippy game or if things don't go our way.”
DL can play free-wheeling hockey with just a bit less pressure than the fourth-seeded home team and get a fun bus ride home with a complete hockey game played under control.
“We need to be able to adapt and continue to play through whatever bumps we face,” Norby said. “We cannot afford to take penalties, so keeping our composure if/when things get a little physical and chippy will be a test for us.”
Thursday’s game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. faceoff at Ted O’Johnson Ice Arena in Park Rapids.
No. 3 Thief River Falls (15-10-6) hosts No. 6 Crookston (3-20-2) in the other half of the bracket. No. 1 Warroad awaits the winner of DL and PR; No. 2 East Grand Forks will play the Prowlers/Pirates winner. Those games are scheduled for Monday, Feb. 13 in East Grand Forks.