Courtesy of the Park Rapids Enterprise
By Vance Carlson
Pete Stahnke expected Zach Lehrke to make an immediate impact as a member of the Park Rapids-Menahga boys hockey team.
“I knew Zach would have an impact right away,” said Stahnke, the Panthers’ head coach. “He could have been a dominant player as a freshman, but playing with his teammates (on the Bantams) was more important to him. He’s more concerned with winning games than with individual goals. Zach has performed over my expectations. He’s a great hockey player.”
Lehrke scored a goal in his first varsity game as a sophomore. The 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward hasn’t stopped putting the puck in the net.
Lehrke finished his first varsity season with 25 goals and 30 assists for 55 points. Those numbers rank among the best scoring seasons in school history. The 25 goals tied for fifth place, the 30 assists were the third most and the 55 points tied for third place on the school’s all-time single-season list.
An assist in the second period of the Panthers’ 7-1 win over Red Lake Falls in February made Lehrke only the seventh player in school history to score at least 100 points.
Tyler Lehrke (192 points), Darin Hafner (134 points), Levi Goeden (122 points), Pat Albee (122 points), Chris Knapp (104 points) and Eric Grewe (102 points) are the only other Park Rapids players to reach that milestone.
“We look for Zach to control the game and make things happen. We look for him to score points, either with assists or goals,” said Stahnke. “Zach is a very coachable player. He’s one of the more enjoyable kids I have ever coached. His acceleration is better than anyone I’ve ever seen and his hockey savvy is unbelievable. His biggest assets are his skating ability, his speed and his strength. He works hard in the weight room and on getting better.”
“I guess my role on the team is to be a goal scorer and get the guys going,” said Lehrke. “I set my goals high. I’d like to go on to the next level and play Juniors and then Division I hockey.”
While helping the team win is Lehrke’s main goal, Stahnke sees a promising future for his junior star once his high school playing days are over. The Park Rapids head coach predicts Lehrke will follow in his older brother’s footsteps. Tyler Lehrke played two years of Junior hockey at Green Bay before moving on to play for Bemidji State University at the Division I level this season.
“Right now he’s a great high school hockey player. Now he has to work on things that will prepare him to play at the Division I level,” said Stahnke. “He’s definitely a Division I prospect.”