Jaksen Panzer, East Grand Forks Senior High, hitting their stride in postseason as they prepare for Friday's state semifinal game against Gentry Academy

Panzer, with 13 goals and 22 assists this season, has pulled together five goals and five assists in section and state tournament games. His latest performance against Litchfield, featuring a hat trick with two shorthanded goals, acts as a microcosm for the Green Wave gameplan.

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East Grand Forks forward Jaksen Panzer (17) celebrates his third goal of the game against Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato in the third period of the Minnesota State Boys Hockey Tournament quarterfinals Tuesday, March 30, 2021, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Heading into Friday’s Minnesota state Class A boys hockey tournament semifinal game against Gentry Academy, East Grand Forks Senior High’s offense has been able to find consistency in scoring. Sophomore Jaksen Panzer has been a leader in that regard this postseason.

The Green Wave have seen key players step up when they’ve needed them to the past few weeks. Panzer, even as a sophomore, has accepted that challenge.

“Everyone’s game has expanded throughout the span of the playoffs and I know my game has elevated as well,” said Panzer following Senior High’s 8-1 win over Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato in Thursday’s quarterfinal round. “They’re bigger games so I know I’m going to have to perform at my best. I’m one of the guys the team needs to lean on to succeed. As long as everyone plays their role we’ll be just fine.”.

Panzer, with 13 goals and 22 assists this season, has pulled together five goals and five assists in section and state tournament games. His latest performance against Litchfield/D-C, featuring a hat trick with two shorthanded goals, acts as a microcosm for the Green Wave gameplan.

“He’s always had a good skill set and a lower base so he can protect pucks really well,” said Senior High coach Tyler Palmiscno. “Now he’s starting to understand he needs to be a 200-foot player. He’s always had that work ethic and that’s different than a lot of kids I’ve seen. It’s relentless.”


Humbly, Panzer credits his teammates for being able to put him in this position. The group has been clicking and his two shorthanded goals Tuesday are proof of that.

“That first one was a great play all around by the guys. (Landon) Parker won the draw clean right back to the defenseman, he went D-to-D and put it out in a great spot for me. Luckily there was a good bounce and I just went away with it,” Panzer said.

There is no doubt the chemistry flowing through the lineup has the group’s skill set riding high, but being able to be in the right place at the right time is a testament to how Panzer processes the flow of the game.

His game draws comparison to his father, Jeff Panzer. Jeff is a former UND forward, where Jaksen is committed.

“I hear it all the time,” Panzer admitted. “A lot of people say our skating and our work ethic is almost identical. I’ve been told we’re the hardest workers on the ice. I know he’s a really good hockey player so it means a lot to be compared to him.”

Coach Palmiscno, who played with Jeff, can connect the dots as well.

“They’ve got some similarities, there’s no doubt,” said Palmiscno. “That competitiveness and relentlessness. I think Jeff was a little faster in terms of end-to-end speed, but Jaksen has a little more grit and strength to his game. Jeff, like Jaksen, also sought out pucks and never gave up.”

Although he has hockey in his genes, Panzer’s love for the game grew on his own. He has wanted nothing else in life and his experiences with East Grand Forks have proved that.


“To succeed in hockey has always been my biggest goal in life, so I’ve always just wanted to play,” said Panzer. “Looking back at a year like this, I know I need to enjoy each game because you never know when the last one is going to be.”

Now, at the top of his game, Panzer and the Green Wave find themselves in a similar situation they were in last week in the Section 8A championship against Warroad. It was an anticipated matchup and EGF came out on top.

“That was a huge win for us last week. There were a lot of people doubting us and we knew that but we didn’t care,” said Panzer. “We had one thing on our minds. We knew we had beaten them once and we knew it was in reach. They were beatable and we did just that.”

The boost from that victory was noticeable at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday. To stick to a system and see positive results from it this late in the year builds faith in what the team can accomplish.

“Just because it’s a big game doesn’t mean we need anyone to do anything they haven’t done all year,” said Palmiscno. “Our best players are going to be our best players, which they have been lately. We don’t rely on one player and that’s why we’re having some success.”

Gentry Academy boasts intimidating box scores and a 17-0 record. Just like Warroad, East Grand Forks will need to fight for its chances and convert on them when they come.

“We like it. We want people to doubt us so we can prove them wrong. I think if we just keep playing our hard-nosed hockey like we’ve been playing the past three weeks we’ll be sitting in a good spot,” said Panzer.

Palmiscno, Panzer and the rest of the No. 3-seeded Green Wave will be traveling back to St. Paul to take on Gentry Academy on Friday at 11 a.m. No. 2 Gentry took down Northern Lakes 8-0 in its quarterfinal matchup. On the other side of the Class A bracket, Dodge County and Little Falls will meet at 1 p.m.


But first comes two days of important preparation for East Grand Forks.

“I know they are super skilled with a ton of high-end players,” said Palmiscno. “We’re really excited for the challenge. You want to play the best in order to be the best. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got and surely not going to back down from anybody.”

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