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Minnesota Duluth shuts out Western Michigan

DULUTH -- A pair of Grand Rapids Thunderhawks had themselves a night Friday, Nov. 11, at Amsoil Arena in a bounce-back game for Minnesota Duluth.

Senior wing Avery Peterson scored two goals and sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard made 22 saves to lead UMD back into the win column via a 3-0 NCHC victory over a heretofore red-hot Western Michigan squad.

Shepard and Peterson played three seasons together at Grand Rapids and were two of the best high school hockey players in the state as seniors in 2013-14 with Peterson being named Mr. Hockey and Shepard winning the Frank Brimsek Award as the top senior goaltender.

The high school teammates were the best players on the ice Friday with Shepard earning his second shutout of his college career while Peterson, who missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, scored a pair of third-period goals in his first game back from injury.

Peterson said it was nice to see the young No. 12-ranked Bulldogs (5-4-2 overall, 1-2 NCHC)  respond with a win Friday after getting swept a week ago at top-ranked St. Cloud State, losing 5-3 and 5-0.

“It’s huge. It’s good for us,” Peterson said. “I don’t even know if I’ve been swept like that since I’ve been here. It’s a good test and a good character check for our guys in the room.”

Peterson’s goals — his third and fourth of the season — on Friday came 47 seconds into the third period and on the power play midway through the third. On the first goal he credited freshman defenseman Scott Perunovich for sucking the Broncos defense out of the way while the second was all sophomore defenseman Nick Wolff, who sent a perfect pass his way to be deflected through.

The last time Peterson took the ice was Oct. 21 against Merrimack in Duluth. He scored two goals that night but a few days later, he fell awkwardly into the boards in practice and hurt his shoulder. A week ago in St. Cloud he was still wincing in pain as he climbed the concrete stairs of the National Hockey Center to an open seat to watch his teammates.

Shepard said seeing Peterson back in the lineup was a major boost for the team, as was seeing sophomore Jarod Hilderman on the ice after he missed three games because of an upper-body injury suffered Oct. 27 at Maine.

“Avery was really good, he was kind of getting hot before he got hurt,” Shepard said. “It was too bad to see him get hurt because he was starting to put the puck in the net and that’s his game. He’s a shooter and he had some good plays tonight. He was really good for us and we needed those goals.”

Shepard gave up four goals on 15 shots in the 5-0 loss to the Huskies, getting pulled just past the midway point of the second period. The Cohasset native said he didn’t let the night get to him, reminding himself that some of the best goalies in the NHL get pulled five or six times in a season.

He said the toughest part of getting over last Saturday’s loss was having to wait all week to get redemption but on the bright side, he had a whole week to prepare, working with goaltending coach Brant Nicklin on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before practice.

The hard work paid off for Shepard, who helped UMD weather an offensive onslaught from the Broncos in the second period. He also stopped all seven shots he faced on the penalty kill to hold Western Michigan 0-for-4 on power plays.

“They are a hard team down low. You have to battle through stuff and keep your feet moving,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “I thought we had some other good shifts that way. We have to have more of that. They are good with their sticks. Some of the plays they disrupted and we weren’t strong over pucks. But I thought we got better as the game went on. That’s the most important thing. We looked more confident as the game went on.”

Western Mich 0-0-0—0

Minn. Duluth 1-0-2—3

First period — 1. UMD, Peter Krieger 3 (Kobe Roth, Parker Mackay), 11:09. Penalties — Neal Goff, WMU (hooking), 0:30; Nick Wolff, UMD (interference), 8:14; Austin Rueschhoff, WMU (elbowing), 13:45.

Second period — No scoring. Penalties — Matt Anderson, UMD (holding), 5:56; Josh Passolt, WMU (delay of game), 12:34; Corey Schueneman, WMU (tripping), 16:01.

Third period — 2. UMD, Avery Peterson 3 (Scott Perunovich, Justin Richards), 0:47; 3. UMD, Peterson 4 (Wolff, Jared Thomas), 10:25 (pp). Penalties — Passolt, WMU (hooking), 1:20; Jade Miller, UMD (high sticking), 5:56; Goff, WMU (interference), 8:35; Krieger, UMD (hooking), 11:54.

Shots on goal — WMU 7-8-7—22; UMD 15-11-12—38. Goalies — Ben Blacker, WMU (38 shots-35 saves); Hunter Shepard, UMD (22-22). Power plays — WMU 0-of-4; UMD 1-of-6. Referees — Ryan Hersey, Brad Shepard. Linesmen — Dana Penkivech, Jeff Schultz. Att. — 5,422.

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