The Panthers opened the state tournament with a quarterfinal game against Northeast quadrant champion Buffalo. Powell fell by an 8-0 count in that game, but it was the team’s play over the first 25 minutes that drew Dent’s praise.
“It was an excellent showing,” he said. “Those first 25 minutes, we held Buffalo down at their end of the field. We played hard. They were out there to compete.”
Eventually, Dent said, fatigue and the difference in depth between the Bison and the Panthers began to show. Buffalo was able to stick the ball in the back of the net for goals and steadily pulled away.
Still, Dent wants the image of those first 25 minutes to stick with Panther fans and players.
“We were very proud of that first 25 minutes,” Dent said. “You saw a very different team this year at the state tournament.”
Fans also saw a very different weather pattern in Sheridan this year. Both the Panthers’ quarterfinal game on Thursday and the team’s elimination game on Friday were played in a constant drenching rain, colder temperatures and wind.
“It was not comfortable to be outside,” said Dent.
On Friday, the Panthers squared off against a familiar opponent in Northwest quadrant compatriot Worland. The match marked the third time the teams had met in the space of six weeks.
“It’s hard to come onto a team a third time,” said Dent. “We came in with intensity and wanted to beat them. It was probably our best showing against them this year, we just couldn’t get the ball into net.”
Haley Wichman gave the Panthers cause for hope, sticking the ball past the Worland keeper for an early 1-0 Powell lead. Worland came back to tie the contest before intermission, then scored the only goal of the second half for a 2-1 victory.
“It was a heartbreaker,” said Dent. “It was kind of the story of most of our year. We were creating chances and gave ourselves opportunities, but we just couldn’t get the ball into the net.”
The Panthers wrapped up their season with a 4-12-1 record, a foundation Dent says sets the team up well for next year.
“We saw a lot of cohesiveness that we know will go into next year,” Dent said. “Our seniors set us up well. I’m excited to get back to state next year and see how we fare.”
Repeated requests for state tournament comments from Powell head coach Brett Hanlin were unsuccessful.