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Prep Newsmaker: At Marshall, Peterson's perseverance pays off

This isn't the first time Duluth Marshall has had a talented hockey player who originally was questioned for his Division I worthiness. Well, it worked out pretty well the last time: Jack Connolly, a 2006 Marshall graduate, has an NCAA title unde...

This isn't the first time Duluth Marshall has had a talented hockey player who originally was questioned for his Division I worthiness.

Well, it worked out pretty well the last time: Jack Connolly, a 2006 Marshall graduate, has an NCAA title under his belt and is a viable Hobey Baker candidate as a Minnesota Duluth senior.

It's working out well for Judd Peterson, too.

The 6-foot, 190-pound senior forward isn't handicapped by size as the diminutive Connolly was, but he needed to overcome issues such as poor academics and a half-hearted work ethic to earn a Division I scholarship.

"I was telling myself before the year that I needed to get going and show people," said Peterson, one of 10 finalists for the Mr. Hockey Award. "I wasn't satisfied with the last couple years and I knew I needed to step it up to complete my dream of getting a Division I scholarship."

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At midseason, he accepted an offer from St. Cloud State of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

"We see him in practice every day so we're biased," Marshall coach Brendan Flaherty said. "But I think his talent level is off the charts. In our minds, he's the most exciting, dynamic, prolific hockey player in the state."

Peterson ranks third in the state in goals (41) and is tied for fifth in points (74). He's just three points from tying Connolly's single-season school scoring record, a mark he could reach Thursday when the top-seeded Hilltoppers (18-7) open the Section 7A playoffs with a quarterfinal against either Silver Bay-Cook County or Ely at Mars Lakeview Arena.

"Brendan always says that people told Jack over and over again that he's too small to play," Peterson said. "Brendan told me the biggest thing about Jack is that he took it to heart and went out on the ice and showed what he had even though he was so small. I look up to the guy and want to emulate him."

Connolly didn't receive a scholarship until he played a season in the United States Hockey League. Peterson didn't have to wait that long, but worried that negative talk about him would hurt his chances.

"A lot of people didn't see me as the type of kid who could go to the next level," he said. "I've had a lot people tell me I could go far, but a lot of people didn't have faith in me that I could do it. There are people who would talk behind my back and say negative stuff that brought me down over the last couple years.

"I put all that to the side this year and wanted to show them what I could do."

Part of the concern was on the academic side. Peterson acknowledges he was a poor student as a freshman at Duluth Denfeld and continued to struggle after he transferred to Marshall. That's when Marshall activities director Dave Homstad took a keen interest in the newcomer.

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"He taught me how to become a better student and changed me as a person, and I really appreciate that," Peterson said of Homstad. "He showed me how to love school, and it's helped me tremendously. When I was struggling, he took me under his wing and helped me."

Homstad, who is retiring this spring after more than 30 years at the school, said it's not the first time he's seen a first-year student struggle at the private institution.

"You can experience a culture shock," he said. "I keep my eyes open for new kids and tried to keep a special eye out for Judd. He was struggling at the start, but to his credit at the end of the first semester this year he had a 3.3 grade-point average. That's not me, that's him. I just tried to give him some direction about what it's like to be in a private school.

"Marshall School is good for him and he's good for Marshall School. It's a win-win. He's a great contributor to our school, not just on the hockey rink but as a member of our school. And the school has done a lot of good for Judd, too."

Flaherty is glad Peterson "turned the corner" academically and realized his dreams.

"The hockey world is a small community and word travels," the coach said. "I give so much credit to Judd because he overcame all that. He's worked hard to turn his academics around -- that was a concern from a lot of Division I programs. This year he's really silenced the critics."

  • Senior goaltender Christian Coffman (2.13 goals-against average) has been out nearly three weeks with mononucleosis and is awaiting clearance from doctors to see if he can return in time for the section final next week. Junior Caden Flaherty --no relation to coach Flaherty --has stepped in and will be between the pipes again this week. Iron Range Conference rivals Hibbing-Chisholm (13-11), International Falls (15-10) and Virginia-Mountain Iron-Buhl (12-12-1), as well as Duluth Denfeld (10-13-2), hope to block the Hilltoppers' path. The defending champion Bluejackets rely on UMD recruit Adam Johnson (24-28--52) for point production; the Broncos' Lucas Debenedet (26-30--56) led the IRC in scoring; and the Blue Devils' Marc Krebsbach, Blair Seitz and Tyler Goodrie combined for 144 points. Denfeld's best chance rests on the shoulders of leading scorer Levi Talarico (18-23--41) and experienced goalie Zach Thompson.

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