News Tribune All-Area Boys Hockey Player of the Year: Grand Rapids' Avery Peterson
Avery Peterson honed his blistering shot inside the family garage, where he fired away at a makeshift net that was bordered on one side by a window.
The Grand Rapids boys hockey star eventually moved his workouts outside last summer, but not before rifling a laser off — not through — the stubborn window.
“I couldn’t believe it — I don’t know how it didn’t break,” Peterson said Thursday evening from Sioux City, Iowa, where he’s rejoined the Musketeers of the United States Hockey League.
Whoever constructed that window deserves kudos. After all, Peterson is a player whose meal ticket is a searing shot. Thus far, it’s helped him become a coveted college recruit, a sixth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey.
And it’s a big reason Peterson is the 2014 News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year.
That big shot, along with Peterson’s sturdy 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, allowed him to become the latest puck prodigy in a community where hockey is a way of life. Peterson, though, kept Thunderhawk fans in suspense last fall when he vacillated between returning to Grand Rapids for his senior season and staying in the USHL.
Ultimately, Peterson headed north — much to the chagrin of area opponents — and the good times started.
He stretched his consecutive-games point streak, started a year ago, to a remarkable 38 en route to supplanting Aaron Miskovich as the program’s all-time leader in points with 203. Earlier this month, he joined Miskovich — now a Grand Rapids assistant — as the only Thunderhawks to be named Mr. Hockey.
Grand Rapids coach John Rothstein recalled Peterson being almost shocked early in the year after he uncharacteristically failed to capitalize on a scoring chance.
“He just had this blank stare, like ‘I can’t believe I missed it,’ ” Rothstein said.
Peterson didn’t miss much. He had 37 goals and 30 assists for the Thunderhawks, who overcame their youth to win 18 games before being knocked from the Section 7AA playoffs by longtime nemesis Duluth East.
That postseason affair featured a pair of future Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks — Peterson and the Greyhounds’ Phil Beaulieu.
Rothstein on Thursday compared Peterson to Chris Marinucci, who won the Hobey Baker award while at Minnesota Duluth after starring at Grand Rapids. Both players, Rothstein said, have big, physical bodies and even bigger shots. Nonetheless, the one thing Rothstein will miss most when the Thunderhawks convene for their first practice next November and Peterson is nowhere to be found has nothing to do with hockey.
“If I’m going to miss one thing, it’s that big smile,” the coach said.
Opposing coaches aren’t so nostalgic.
“I’m glad he’s gone,” quipped Duluth Marshall’s Brendan Flaherty, whose team had some success against Peterson and the Thunderhawks in a 6-4 victory in December. “I think that’s the biggest compliment I can give him, (being glad) that we don’t have to play against him anymore.”
Peterson, who also was voted the Associated Press Player of the Year, said throughout the winter he had no regrets about playing one last season of high school hockey, especially considering his hometown, where each Thunderhawks home game is a huge deal.
Now he’s ready for the next chapter in his career. Peterson has a chance to play right away for the Mavericks, who are losing a plethora of forwards. Eventually, he hopes the NHL beckons, but he’s hesitant to “jump the gun.”
Regardless of the level, his coach expects nothing but success for the workhorse.
“Even though he knew he was going to UNO and he had all the accolades, he still worked incredibly hard,” Rothstein said. “When your leaders and your best players are your hardest workers, it makes your life as a coach much easier.
“He’s done it all along and I expect him to keep improving. He just loves the game.”
NEWS TRIBUNE BOYS HOCKEY PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Year Player School 2014 Avery Peterson Grand Rapids
2013 Meirs Moore Duluth East
2012 Jake Randolph Duluth East
2011 Garrett Skrbich Hermantown
2010 Adam Krause Hermantown
2009 Max Tardy Duluth East
2008 Jake Youso International Falls
2007 Patrick White Grand Rapids
2006 Tyler Johnson Cloquet-Esko-Carlton
2005 Matt Niskanen Mountain Iron-Buhl
2004 Alex Goligoski Grand Rapids
2003 Ben Gordon International Falls
2002 Josh Johnson Cloquet-Esko-Carlton
2001 Gino Guyer Greenway
2000 Aaron Slattengren Proctor
1999 Jon Francisco Hermantown
1998 Adam Coole Duluth East
1997 Dylan Mills Duluth East
1996 Dave Spehar Duluth East
1995 Dave Spehar Duluth East
1994 Joe Golcz Duluth Denfeld