Dylan Ulmer put Powell on the scoreboard first. The senior forward stole the ball from a Bison defender just outside the 18-yard box, setting up a one-on-one against the Bison keeper. Ulmer won the match, sending the ball into net beyond the keeper’s fingers for a 1-0 Powell lead.
Buffalo responded midway through the first half, taking advantage of a Panther giveaway in the defensive zone and beating goalie John Kissner with the shot. The Bison added two more goals before the first half came to a close, both off crossing passes to players cutting in off the back post.
“Four of the five goals we gave up were back-post goals,” Rapp said. “We either didn’t mark up or we didn’t get in front of their guys when they cut in. That’s something we’ll have to take care of practice.”
After some midgame adjustments, the Panthers played Buffalo on even terms save for a two-minute stretch of the second half. During that time, the Bison capitalized on a Powell defense that looked a step slow on both occasions to add two more goals to their side of the scoreboard.
Powell had second-half chances as well. The team’s best chance came on second-chance header a few feet outside the left post. With two Panthers in the area, Buffalo’s keeper was able to win a footrace to the ball.
“Buffalo has a lot of speed and they pushed all that speed to the front,” Rapp said. “We thought we’d have a chance to counter them because we thought our forwards were faster than their defenders, but they made it really hard for us to get the ball to our forwards with all their speed. Offensively, they did a good job of controlling the ball and moving it side to side, which is the same thing we want to be able to do when we have possession.”
Kissner turned away 13 of 18 shots on goal for the Panthers, who also dropped a 3-0 decision in the boys’ junior varsity contest.
“That was probably the top team in the state right now,” Rapp said, a belief validated the next day with Buffalo knocked off pre-season No. 1 Cody by a 7-1 final score. “The nice thing is this game really didn’t mean all that much. It was a non-conference game. It shows us where we need to improve, but it doesn’t mean anything with regard to getting to state.”
Powell’s schedule gets no easier this week. The Panthers travel to pre-season No. 4 Lander on Thursday. The Tigers will undoubtedly be ranked higher by the time the first whistle sounds in that contest, however. Lander won all three of the games it played last week, including a 3-0 victory over pre-season No. 2 Jackson.
On Saturday, the Panthers host Cody in a clash between Northwest quadrant and Park County foes.