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Lakers blank Park Rapids at Fergus Falls tourney

Park Rapids' Bjorn Jorgenson gets a shot off past a diving check from Jackson Fields, but Blake Itzen (30) snags the puck with his glove en route to a shutout of the Panthers Thursday at the Otter Classic in Fergus Falls. Robert Williams / Tribune

After watching 50 shots stopped in the Otter Classic opening game loss to West Fargo, the Detroit Lakes boys hockey team wanted to get on the board and off the schneid quickly in game two versus Park Rapids. The Lakers did just that and cruised to a 2-0 victory over the Panthers at the Fergus Falls Community Arena Thursday afternoon.

Ryan Paskey found Ben Unruh off the opening faceoff with a slick pass and Unruh buried the puck behind Park Rapids’ senior goalie Austin Jerger just 11 seconds into the game. Jace Kovash had a secondary assist on the play.

Kovash scored the only other goal in the game on a feed from Dominic Denardo to send the Lakers to the first intermission up 2-0 with a 14-5 shots on goal advantage.

Cam Gilbertson (19) and Dominic Denardo (28) celebrate with goal-scorer Jace Kovash.

Head coach Todd Dwyer adjusted his offensive attack planting a player in front of the opposing net after West Fargo pushed the DL offense outside the slot and found a way to win despite a massive differential in shots on goal Wednesday.

The Lakers also managed to steer clear of the penalty box for most of the game and kept Park Rapids at bay.

An insurance goal eluded Laker shooters despite plenty of chances. Will Stowman found the right pipe on a rush midway through the second period. His shot beat Jerger, but not the metal.

DL ended the period with a lengthy power play possession in the Panther end and peppered Jerger to a 28-8 shot advantage as the horn sounded.

Jerger kept Park Rapids in the game. He robbed Collin Ginnaty with the glove in the third period. Stowman and Ginnaty got behind the Panther defense and Stowman fed a puck to Ginnaty alone in front of Jerger, but the Panther netminder flashed the leather to keep the deficit at two goals.

Park Rapids’ head coach Derek Ricke pulled Jerger for the extra attacker with three minutes to play the DL defense and Laker goalie Blake Itzen powered through to record the shutout.

Alex Bren had the best look at an empty net goal but his shot missed wide.

DL improves to 4-6 overall and have defeated the Panthers twice this season. The teams will meet a third time in Detroit Lakes Tuesday, Feb. 13 in the penultimate game of the season. That game will be an official Section 8A and Mid-State Conference game.

The Lakers get a rematch with Fergus Falls in the final game of the tournament Friday night at 7 p.m. The Otters defeated DL in the season-opener 4-1 in late November.

Two big section games loom on the horizon after the tournament. Warroad (3-6-1) and Crookston (6-4) both come to Kent Freeman Arena on back-to-back days January 5-6.

The Warriors are 3-0-1 after dropping their first six games.

The Pirates are near the top of the section standings and have prevailed in four of the past five games.

The Lakers and Crookston have met in the first round of the playoffs the past two seasons with each team coming away with an overtime victory.

DL and Warroad will square off Friday, Jan. 5 at 7:30 p.m. and the Pirates will be here for a Saturday matinee at 1 p.m.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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