Posted at: 01/13/2014 4:15 PM
Updated at: 01/14/2014 10:22 PM
By: Laura Kennedy
It's been an interesting season in Grand Rapids. The Thunderhawks are adjusting to new players and new coaches.
"They have improved, have played with poise, have worked harder and competed a little better, and we just want to build on that," said John Rothstein, Grand Rapids head coach.
Rothstein says his staff is finding a balance between guiding young skaters and letting the veterans lead.
"You teach, but you don't want to take that creativity either," Rothstein said. "You want them to be creative, have fun, play the game, and so it's kind of a balancing act for both of us."
It helps when you have players like Wild draft pick Avery Peterson and standout goalie Hunter Shepard setting the tone.
"When your best players are your hardest workers, it makes my job a lot easier," Rothstein said.
"Me and Avery are usually at the rink probably two or three mornings a week at like 7:30," Shepard said. "He's shooting on me, working on his shot and I'm practicing too."
"We just want to control what we can control and do what we can to win," Peterson said.
When asked about the Thunderhawks biggest strength, Shepard and Peterson credited each other.
"Definitely goaltending," Peterson said. "We have a good goalie, he's probably the best in the state. He keeps us in a lot of games, a big part of the reason our record is so good."
"We can score goals," Shepard said. "I mean last night was the first time Avery hasn't had a point in 38 games. Especially when you have a guy like that, you know he's gonna put up points. You don't necessarily have to get a shutout to win the game."
The Thunderhawks have been in the hunt for a section 7AA title the past few years. That success brings some pressure, but Rapids is ready for it.
"You have expectations like that every season," Peterson said. "It's just something you've gotta live with, and work with. kind of put it behind you almost and just go out there and play the game."