Prep boys hockey: Grand Rapids’ ‘push’ comes too late
The Thunderhawks had trouble generating offensive chances and even when they did, Andover goalie Austin Brauns was there to shut the door.
DULUTH — After struggling to generate offensive chances most of the game, Grand Rapids’ attack came to life in the final 10 minutes of play in the Section 7AA title game against Andover Wednesday at Amsoil Arena.
Thunderhawks’ senior defenseman Ren Morque’s shot with 7 minutes, 15 seconds remaining snuck past Andover goalie Austin Brauns to cut the Huskies’ lead to 2-1, but Grand Rapids wouldn’t find the equalizer and eventually fell 3-1. Andover took its third straight Section 7AA crown.
“We had a slow start and Andover was buzzing,” Grand Rapids assistant coach Beau Geisler said. “We weathered that storm a little bit in the first and our goalie played unbelievable. We came in the the locker room and regrouped and tried to come out with a little more energy. They have a strong push and we pushed back a little bit and came back in the third, but our push was a little too late.”
Grand Rapids head coach Wade Chiodo declined comment to the News Tribune.
The Thunderhawks came out a little flat and the Huskies had them on their heels for much of the first period, outshooting Grand Rapids 17-4.
Andover’s Gavyn Thoreson scored at the 9:30 mark of the first period, but couldn’t get another shot past Grand Rapids goalie Myles Gunderson.
“I thought we had blown it by only being up one, to be honest, and we almost did,” Andover coach Mark Manney said. “But we have a group that plays loose and when you’ve been to the tournament recently, you can play that way.”
Geisler had nothing but good things to say about Gunderson’s play, especially in the first period.
“Myles played unbelievable,” Geisler said. “He was dialed in and kept us in the game, thankfully, because it could have been two or three nothing in the first, but thankfully it was one. At this time of year you need a goalie that’s dialed in and he was dialed in.”
The Thunderhawks played better in the second period and had a power play opportunity early on. Instead of finding the equalizer, though, Andover’s Brooks Cogswell got free on a breakaway and put the puck past Gunderson to make the score 2-0.
Grand Rapids looked dead in the water early in the third period after not putting a single shot on goal during an early power play. They came to life in the second half of the period, culminating in Morque’s third period score.
Grand Rapids continued the attack until the closing moments when Cayden Casey got an empty net goal for Andover.
Brauns, a Frank Brimsek Award finalist, finished with 29 saves and said his strategy was to relax and not allow the Thunderhawks attack to overwhelm him.
“I tried to stay calm,” Brauns said. “I just took deep breaths and then took it one shot at a time and tried to play back as much as I could.”
Gunderson stopped 34 shots in the losing effort for Grand Rapids.
Thoreson, who scored in the first and picked up an assist on the Huskies’ final goal, didn’t want to think about the state tournament yet.
“I’m just living in the moment right now, it’s such a great time right now,” Thoreson said. “It just feels amazing because last year we didn’t have any fans so we didn’t really get the full experience. I’m just excited to play in front of a whole bunch of fans.”