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Prep boys hockey: Grand Rapids playing well heading into rematch against Andover

The Thunderhawks won their game Feb. 8, but the key against the Huskies Thursday will be playing fast, “in-your-face kind of hockey,” according to coach Wade Chiodo.

Grand Rapids overshadows Blaine in Section 7AA semifinal at Amsoil Arena
Grand Rapids forward Joey DelGreco (10) scores a goal against Blaine goaltender Kasen Ranierew (1) during the first period on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — Last season, Grand Rapids had just one loss heading into the section title game against Andover.

The Huskies held off a Thunderhawk comeback attempt to win the Section 7AA title and earn a spot in the state tournament.

Grand Rapids will have a chance at revenge when they face Andover for the section crown again 7 p.m. Thursday at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.

Grand Rapids (20-6-1) already defeated the Huskies 2-1 Feb. 8, but Thunderhawks coach Wade Chiodo doesn’t think that will have any bearing on the outcome of Thursday’s matchup.

“We got a few more bounces in that game and we won the game,” Chiodo said. “At the end of the day, we scored more goals than they did and it was just two good teams going up and down the ice sheet. I don’t think it was anything magical or any kind of strategy that both coaches put in place.”

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Max Plante’s goal with less than a minute left in overtime sealed the win for the Hawks.

Heading into Thursday’s game, Grand Rapids has won six of its last seven games, with the only blemish a 3-2 overtime loss to Hermantown Feb. 15 in both teams’ regular season finale.

“We’ve been playing really good the last seven, eight games,” Chiodo said. “I don’t get caught up too much in the scores like everyone else does, we’ve just got to be playing with a purpose in what we’re trying to achieve, do the little things and play our style. We’ve really honed in on that as a team and done an excellent job playing in all three zones.”

Grand Rapids has a potent offense with six players that have recorded at least 33 points this year. Minnesota Mr. Hockey finalist Joey DelGreco leads the team with 25 goals and 67 total points — good for 15th in the state. DelGreco has recorded at least one point in 34 of 36 games, dating back to last season.

Andover (21-5-1) has two players with at least 64 points in Cayden Casey (65) and Gavyn Thoreson (64), but the Thunderhawk defense is also stout. They’ve given up just 59 goals this season and goaltender Myles Gunderson has a 2.20 goals against average with an .896 save percentage.

Hermantown boys hockey faces Grand Rapids at the IRA Civic Center.
Grand Rapids goaltender Myles Gunderson (1) deflects a shot on goal against Hermantown on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Andover goalie Austin Brauns, a Frank Brimsek Award finalist, has slightly better numbers with a 1.75 GAA and .924 save percentage.

The teams are evenly matched, but Chiodo said the key for the Thunderhawks is going to be the same as it has been all season.

“We’ve got to play fast,” Chiodo said. “I’ve said it all year and I think it’s going to be key for us to play fast, we’ve got to be hard on pucks and play in-your-face kind of hockey. That’s the style I want to see our team play on Thursday night.”

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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