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SCSU's Jack Peart enjoyed being 'the enemy' while playing for Team USA

Peart helped the Americans win the bronze medal in the IIHF World Junior Championships, which were held in Canada.

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St. Cloud State defenseman Jack Peart (23) carries the puck during the first period of a nonconference game against the University of Minnesota on Jan. 7, 2023, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn.
Jim Rosvold/The Rink Live

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — One of the sure signs that the team a player is on is a good one and it is respected, is when the team gets booed in another team's home rink.

That has become the case for Team USA when it plays in Canada for the IIHF World Junior Championships in recent years. The Americans not only heard it when they were playing Canada on Jan. 4, but they heard it in all their games from the Canadian crowds from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick.

St. Cloud State's Jack Peart, a 19-year-old defenseman from Grand Rapids, Minn., got to see what playing against Canada on its home ice was like.

"To play in front of 11,000 fans that are all cheering against you is crazy and really cool," Peart said of the semifinals game. "I'd say it's the loudest crowd I've played in front of. They have their goal song and everyone in the building is singing and clapping to it. Didn't want to hear that too much, but we did.

"It's crazy because (the fans) feel like they're right on top of you and you're the enemy. But it's a good time."

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Peart helped Team USA win the bronze medal in the tournament. Technically, it was the third time in a year that Peart played for Team USA.

Playing for Team USA again

One year earlier, Peart and Team USA played in one game in the tournament before it was postponed due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among participants. In August, Peart played for Team USA in the rescheduled tournament, in which the Americans lost (4-2) in the quarterfinals to Czechia.

On the team that played in August, Peart averaged a little over 13 minutes per game. In the recently completed tournament, Peart averaged 17 minutes, 30 seconds, and played on the penalty kill.

"He may have come back from the World Juniors last year with a little less confidence, to be honest," Huskies coach Brett Larson said. "They used him as the seventh 'D' and he didn't play a ton. They used him a bit on the power play and I don't think he felt like he made an impact on the team.

"This year, he played 18 minutes a game, was used in really important situations, played him on the penalty kill. I think he felt that the team leaned on him in important situations to help win a medal. I'm seeing a kid coming back with more confidence coming back from that tournament."

Peart played in the bronze medal game on Jan. 5. The SCSU coaching staff was not sure if they were going to play Peart in the game on Jan. 7 against Minnesota because he had played in seven games over 11 days with Team USA.

"I think my bus to the airport was at 3:45 a.m.," Peart said of Jan. 6. "(Get) back home, play Minnesota the next day. It's crazy how fast things turn around.

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"But it was such a great experience and I had a lot of fun with it."

When I'm playing well, I notice that I'm moving my feet a lot more and that helps me get more time and space with the puck to make plays.
Jack Peart

Peart was listed as the seventh defenseman for the Huskies on Jan. 7. He didn't not play seventh defenseman minutes in the 3-0 win over the Gophers.

"Our plan was to limit his minutes and just use him on the power play," Larson said with a laugh. "Jack ended up playing 25 minutes — the most of any 'D' on our team — and played great. Even though he was tired coming off of World Juniors, I thought he had a really solid weekend."

Peart said it felt more like a continuation of what he had been doing.

"I was tired, but I knew I still had a little left in the tank and it was like we were dragging the (World Junior) tournament on," he said. "It wasn't like I had slept for a couple days straight and I was groggy. I was waking up and it like another day in the tournament.

"We talked about feeling out a couple of the first shifts and depending on how I played, they would play me more. I thought I had my legs, so I was good to play."

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St. Cloud State defenseman Jack Peart (23) blocks a shot by Miami before it can get to St. Cloud State goalie David Hrenak (34) during the third period Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

Stepping up into a bigger role

Peart, a second-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild, has had a strong start to his second season of college hockey. He is averaging the second-most ice time on the team (20:48 per game), is tied for second on the team in blocked shots (23), tied for third in assists (13), is fifth in plus/minus (plus-11) and is winning 54% of his puck battles in 20 games.

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As a freshman, he had 22 blocked shots, 17 points and was a plus-3 in 32 games. Another noticeable area of improvement is his shots on goal: he had 28 as a freshman and already has 31 this season.

The Grand Rapids (Minn.) native also discusses fishing, what he learned from last season, what it was like to play for Grant Clafton and how the 10 new players on the Huskies roster are looking on the Huskies Hockey Insider podcast with The Rink Live's Mick Hatten. Plus a guest appearance by a teammate.


"That came with confidence, to play in the offensive zone and trusting my abilities to make plays there," Peart said of his improvement this season. "I'm not just always resorting to defense.

"I think my foot speed has gotten a lot better than last year, which has helped me defend more. Coaches have trusted me more to defend than last year. When I'm playing well, I notice that I'm moving my feet a lot more and that helps me get more time and space with the puck to make plays."

His more confident play has helped him move up to SCSU's top power-play unit, be on the penalty kill and play in bigger situations.

"He's always been a great complimentary player, always has made the players around him better," Larson said. "He always makes the right play on breakouts, always makes the right play on transitions, putting the puck on the (teammate's) tape. Sometimes you don't even notice him because he's so efficient.

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"The step I'm seeing is that in important moments in games, he's trying to step up and make something happen and dictate the game. He's stepping out of his comfort zone a little bit more every weekend try to influence the outcome of the game. I would argue he's been one of the best defensemen on the ice in the North Dakota series, the Minnesota series."

As he continues to develop, Peart continues to look for ways to improve. One thing that he picked up from playing for Team USA was something subtle.

When defensemen go to retrieve pucks in the defensive zone, they are taught to look over their shoulders to see opposing players coming at them and also to see where they want to go with the puck once they get it.

"Shoulder checking on breakouts — that was one of the things that I was using here, but I was using it more when I was up there," he said of the World Junior Championships. "I thought that really helped my play when I was up there. It's a small, little detail, but it's something that helps you read plays and see the ice. I think it's huge to use as a defenseman."

St. Cloud State (7-3-0 NCHC, 15-5-0 overall) and Colorado College (5-4-1, 9-10-1) will play conference games at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday (both on FOX 9+) in an NCHC series at the Brooks Center.

Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com
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