Tuesday night was more than a 5-4 overtime loss at home against East Grand Forks. It was a chance to earn some respect the Lakers felt like they weren’t given before the start of the 2021-22 season.
Jacksen Panzer slid the puck to Zach Stocker, who picked the top-left corner over the shoulder of Detroit Lakes senior goaltender Elijah Blow with 1:21 left in the overtime period to give East Grand Forks (1-1) its first win of the season. However, the second-ranked team in the state, according to Let’s Play Hockey, was given all it could handle and then some.
Trailing 2-1, Detroit Lakes senior Beau Boehne finally broke through and scored his first goal of the season to tie the game with under nine minutes left in regulation. Less than a minute later, he beat EGF sophomore goaltender Chase Mero again with the help of a perfect setup by sophomore Cole Deraney to give the Lakers their first lead of the season with 8:19 left in the third period.
“I’m happy for Beau for getting on the scoresheet a couple of times,” Detroit Lakes head coach Ben Noah said. “He probably could’ve had two or three in that Fergus (Falls) game on Saturday. It kind of had the feel that it was going to last a while, but it was nice to see him get the monkey off his back. Hopefully, they start pouring in.”
Heading into the third period, the Lakers were felt comfortable despite having never been in a position to beat EGF during their careers.
“Believe it or not, I’ve never seen our coach that calm heading into the third period,” Boehne said of Noah’s message down 2-1. “I think we all really appreciate him and what he’s done for the Lakers. Tonight, we needed him to be calm, and I’m proud of him for getting us to this point.”
Just 19 seconds after Boehne gave the Lakers the lead, Detroit Lakes junior Carter Bellefeuille tapped in a loose puck after junior Cooper Moore’s shot squeaked behind Mero.
Panzer, a University of North Dakota commit, proved why he’s one of the best players in the state on Tuesday. With two goals already through two periods, he completed the hat trick with 3:31 left off a rebound shot from the back wall to pull EGF within a goal. He later tied the game with 35 seconds left to bring the Green Wave back from the dead.
“Obviously, he’s a great player,” Boehne said of Panzer. “He’s a (Division I) player, man. He’s a super skilled, smart player. But you know what? We’re not going to be intimidated by a guy like that. The second you’re intimidated, you lose every time.”
Panzer picked up his fifth point of the game in overtime on an odd-man rush pass to Stocker. It was the last time EGF took advantage of Detroit Lakes’ short-handed defensive unit.
Late in the second period, senior captain Rian Solberg left the game with an injury. The Lakers, who already use only four defensemen, rotated Jacob Thomas, Tommy Suckert and Eli Denardo for most of the final 25 minutes.
“Words can’t describe the gutsy effort that Thomas, Denardo and Suckert put out there tonight,” Noah said. “We have a freshman out there double shifting against one of the best teams in the state, and he gets his first goal too. He deserved that. He gets better and better every single day. But all in all, just a gutsy effort by those three guys.”
Suckert’s first career goal came with 7:11 in the second period after the Lakers kept the damage to a minimum on a five-minute major penalty kill. Shortly after Detroit Lakes regained full strength, Sucker sniped Mero to give the Lakers much-needed life.
Along with the gritty effort from the defenseman, Blow put on an outstanding performance for Detroit Lakes between the pipes. When called on to make a big save, he stepped up to give the Lakers a fighting chance.
“That kid comes into practice every day wanting to get better,” Boehne said of Blow. “He puts his head down and goes to work. Same with our other goalie, Joshua Mack and all of the other goalies that we have. Our motto is about getting 1% better every day. They need to make saves like that for us to go all the way.”
Noah understands that earning respect from other teams is a work in progress. With more chances against traditionally good programs left on the schedule, the Lakers are taking each opportunity to prove themselves in stride.
“I think tonight is going to turn some heads,” Noah said on earning respect from other top programs. “I think some teams are going to look at this and say it was a fluke. But it wasn’t, and we know that. The only thing that matters is the opinion inside of our own locker room. That was no fluke. If any naysayers are saying we were getting bounces and all that–no, just no. We are excited to see that team again.”