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Thunderhawk thriller

By Zack Friedli, MN Hockey Hub staff, 02/22/13, 8:00PM CST


Section 7AA semifinals: Grand Rapids' Avery Peterson scores in double OT in win over Elk River

Grand Rapids' Avery Peterson (8) knocks home a rebound to tie the game with 10 seconds left in regulation on Saturday in Duluth. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net

Grand Rapids has had a pretty simple recipe for success this year. The Thunderhawks either get great goaltending from Hunter Shepard, or they get some timely goals from forward Avery Peterson.

On Saturday against Elk River, the latter was the difference.

Peterson scored twice – once with just 10 seconds left in regulation and then again in double overtime – allowing Grand Rapids to advance to the section finals for the second time in three years.

“The one thing that’s constant is that they want to win hockey games, and they’ll go to the end to do it,” Grand Rapids coach Bruce LaRoque said. “[Peterson] is certainly one of the players on our team that we have to rely on to get some goals. It’s no secret; Avery Peterson has score some goals for us, and we’ll need him to continue to score goals.”

It really isn’t a secret, as Peterson has racked up ridiculous numbers while being the main focus of every team the Thunderhawks have played. The only problem for Grand Rapids opponents is that stopping Peterson is much easier said than done.

“Avery has been great for us all year,” senior defenseman Jake Bischoff said. “Avery has always been a really good player. He works so hard in the offseason, and it’s starting to catch up. You can see it on the ice big time right now.”

Much of Peterson’s success is derived from his ability to get to the net. He’s a big forward with soft hands and hockey sense – a deadly combination – and he knows how to use his skills in each situation.

The situation for Peterson on Saturday was a unique one, though. With just seconds left, the Thunderhawks trailed Elk River, 1-0. Grand Rapids had peppered Elks’ goalie Mac Berglove all night, but couldn’t crack the confident junior for a goal.

Cue Peterson for the heroics.

“The hockey gods definitely didn’t want us to lose,” Peterson joked after the game. “It took us 50 minutes to score a goal, and we could have had three goals by that point in the game, and we just kept going.”

After a Bischoff shot bounced off teammate Cody Mann in front of the Elk River net, Peterson found the puck in a soft spot in the defensive coverage and send a shot in to force overtime.

Then, just shy of three minutes into the second overtime frame, Peterson made another Peterson play.

He picked up a loose puck. He fought off a defender. He shot. He scored.

“It was a relief,” Bischoff said.

Peterson, Bischoff and the other Thunderhawks will have a shot at the program’s first state tournament appearance since 2006-07 when they play Duluth East on Thursday. Both Peterson and Bischoff were on a Rapids team that fell victim to the Greyhounds in 2011, and they are hungry to break through and end Duluth East’s string of section championships.

“[There’s] no other team I’d rather end their season and go to state,” Bischoff said. “They’re a great team and they’ll come out flying, so it will be a good one.”

Avery Peterson fires the game-winning shot off a Elk River stick and in. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThorughMyLens.net

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

Avery Peterson scored twice and Hunter Shepard made 25 saves to lead No. 2-seeded Grand Rapids to a 2-1 double overtime victory over No. 3-seed Elk River on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.

The win puts the Thunderhawks in the section final on Thursday night, where they’ll meet top-seeded Duluth East.

After nearly three periods of scoreless hockey, Elk River’s Chase Springman put the Elks up 1-0 at 14 minutes, 26 seconds of the third period.

It looked like the lead would hold, thanks largely to the outstanding play of Elk River netminder Mac Berglove, but Peterson did what he does and found a way to put the puck in the net.

With Shepard out and the Thunderhawks pressing for the late equalizer, Peterson picked up a rebound and threw it into the yawning net to knot the score with just 10 seconds remaining in regulation.

Then, 2 minutes, 54 seconds into the second overtime, Peterson found a puck along the wall, skated to the bottom of the right circle and put a shot off the crossbar and in to end it.

Berglove, who was easily the best player on the ice, finished with 36 stops. Blake Hillman and Tim Sanford assisted on the lone Elk River goal.

Four Grand Rapids skaters finished with single assists – Reid Holum, Jonah Bischoff, Cody Mann and Jake Bischoff – to help set up the Peterson goals.

1. Mac Berglove, Elk River
It’s not often that the losing goaltender gets the first star, but Berglove was that good on Saturday. He made 36 stops, many of which came on scrambles in front of his net. If not for his spectacular performance, the Elks don’t even get to overtime.

2. Avery Peterson, Grand Rapids
Peterson has been scoring at a ridiculous clip this year, and everyone saw why on Saturday. He used his size to create chances, his hands to make nice passes and his combination of a wicked shot and great hockey sense to put himself in the right position to score the two biggest goals of his high school career.

3. Jonah Bischoff, Grand Rapids
Only a freshman, Bischoff looked like a section playoff veteran on Saturday. He not only made good, solid passes and took smart shots, but he was also tough along the boards and responsible in his own end.

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