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Boys hockey: new head coach who wants to change culture, build winning program

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Moore played hockey in high school in Woodbury before playing as a striker at St. Marys University in Winona for four years. After graduation, Moore served as an assistant varsity and head JV coach at St. Marys before becoming head coach at Tartan High School. After six years with Tartan, Moore returned to St. Marys as an assistant coach before becoming the head coach of South St. Paul and Woodbury for 15 years. Moore returned to St. Marys as head coach in 2007 before retiring in 2019. Moore then moved to Park Rapids and decided to rebuild another high school program.

I’ve already rebuilt two youth programs in Tartan and Woodbury and I thought I could change the culture here. Tartan and Woodbury had never finished above .500 before and both went to state. I’m not saying Park Rapids is going to say it, but I want us to compete with Warroad and East Grand Forks again. To do that, we need to work with the youth programs and get the numbers back up. I want to get us back to the level where we were well respected as a program, Moore said. I want to show the kids the rich hockey tradition that we have here in Park Rapids that they may not know about. This program was good before and I know this program can be good again. We need to start changing the culture and the attitude that when things go wrong, never give up. They have to buy in what was sold. We have to work hard, have good character, have good academics and be not only good hockey players, but also good people. The children must be willing to change to make that possible.

Despite finishing with an overall record of 5-13 a year ago, the Panthers did put a competitive team on the ice as nine games were decided by one goal and two other games resulted in two-goal losses. The Panthers finished third in the Mid-State Conference standings last season with a record of 3-5. Northern Lakes remained unbeaten, 8-0, while Detroit Lakes finished 5-2. Wadena-Deer Creek (2-6) and Prairie Center (1-6) rounded out the five-team conference standings. With Detroit Lakes dropping out of the Section 8A tournament due to COVID, Park Rapids received the No. 9 seed and opened with a 7-0 loss to Bagley/Fosston at No. 8 in a play-in game.

To improve on that win tally this year, the Panthers will need to improve defensively. Park Rapids allowed an average of 4.6 goals per game and scored just 2.1 goals per game, while outscoring 83-37.

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I am a very attacking coach. I like to get up and go, but that’s going to take a few years, Moore said. We should be more defensive this year. We can’t outrun our opponents, so we had to play well defensively to compete and win.

Seniors Nash Mitchell, Jaxson Lund, Sam Meier, Liam Torola and Collin Hoyt return this season to lead the Panthers; juniors Joey Hillukka, Quincy Jantz and Ethan Eischens; and sophomores Sawyer Torkelson, Jaron Pinoniemi and Josh Hillukka.

Mitchell (seven goals, eight assists), Joey Hillukka (four goals, 10 assists), Lund (eight goals, three assists) and Jantz (three goals, two assists) return to lead the charge while Meier (one goal, one assist) and Eischens (one goal) return to defense. Pinoniemi (three goals as a striker), Torola (one goal, one assist as a striker/defender) and Josh Hillukka (one assist as a striker) also contributed to the scoring column, while freshmen Quinn Hoscheid (defender) and Shad Torola (striker) also back from last year’s varsity.

Split times in the net for the Panthers were Torkelson (4-9 record, 53 goals allowed, 427 saves) and Hoyt (1-4 record, 28 goals allowed, 124 saves). Torkelson received commendation from the Mid-State Conference.

It is counted on to fill the void left by last year’s graduation senior strikers Alec Nordin (three goals, seven assists), Caden Opheim (two goals, seven assists) and Jack Slagle (four goals, two assists) and senior defenders Brody Hagen (nine assists) and Josh Crandall (three assists) are juniors Coby Hagen (defender), Wyatt Tisher (striker) and Lars Peterson (striker/defender); sophomore Reed Sharp (striker), Evan Wesa (defender), Parker Vinge (defender), Justin Baker (striker), Wyatt Hegg (striker), Conner Hanson (defender), Braden Stewart (defender), Kaycee Tisher (striker), and Eli Eisens (forward); and freshman Brock Leiren (defender).

We have the potential to be pretty good and compete. The strength of our team is goalkeeping and we would build around that, said Moore, who will be assisted by Sam Coborn and Jared Naeve. I would like to see us above .500 and compete for the conference championship. Another important goal is not to have a play-in-game. We want to be seeded high enough so that we don’t have to play a play-in-game. We may have a long way to go to get there, but with a different attitude, the opportunity to get much better is there. We have to prove ourselves and step up our game, but I believe the potential is there if the kids pick up on what they were trying to do.

Competing for the conference title and rising in the section standings will be a challenge for the Panthers in Moore’s first season as head coach. However, Moore is confident that his team will rise to that challenge this season and surprise teams.

We only have seven days of practice before jumping right in, so we don’t have a learning curve. We can’t give up games early if we want to compete for the conference championship, Moore said. We need to get a few wins early to gain confidence. Will work hard and hope for the best. Hard work pays off. If the kids believe, I think we have a chance to be a good team.

SEASON SCHEDULE
November 24 – at Red Lake Falls, 7 p.m.
Dec 2 – Prairie Center, 7:00 PM Dec 4 – South St. Paul, 2:00 PM Dec 7 – at Detroit Lakes, 7:00 PM Dec 10 – at Lake of the Woods, 7:00 PM Dec 14 – Breckenridge/Wahpeton, 7pm Dec 16 – At Bagley/Fosston, 7pm Dec 17 – Northern Lakes, 7pm Dec 21 – Wadena-Deer Creek, 7pm Dec 28-29 – At Morris Tournament.
January 6 – Crookston, 7pm January 8 – at Kittson Central, 2pm January 18 – at Wadena-Deer Creek, 7pm January 20 – at Breckenridge/Wahpeton, 7pm January 22 – Lake of the Woods, 2pm January 25 – Prairie Center at Long Prairie, 7:00 PM January 27 – Northern Lakes at Pequot Lakes, 7:00 PM January 29 – in Crookston, 2:00 PM January 31 – Red Lake Falls, 7:00 PM
Feb 3 – At Ely, 6:00pm Feb 7 – Bagley/Fosston, 7:00pm Feb 8 – Detroit Lakes, 7:00pm Feb 12 – Kittson Central, 2:00pm Feb 15 – Greenway, 7:00pm

Sources

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2/ https://www.parkrapidsenterprise.com/sports/hockey/7294959-Boys-hockey-New-head-coach-looking-to-change-culture-build-winning-program

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