Tim Moe has coached a number of players from Mayville, N.D. with the Crookston girls’ hockey team. There was something unique about this latest one.
In the summer of 2018, Nora Peterson skated with the Pirates in a tournament. Moe noticed what set Peterson apart right away — and it wasn’t her streaking red ponytail or the fact that she lived an hour from Crookston.
“You could just see the raw ability,” said the Crookston head coach on Thursday.
Raw ability is fickle. Some athletes don’t have it. Some do. And a certain portion of those lucky few need to have it coaxed out of them. Peterson was one of the latter.
As a sophomore last year, Peterson scored eight goals and had a team-high seven assists. For a team that struggled mightily to score, every one of her 15 points was needed — but Moe knew Peterson was capable of even more.
In practice, he saw Peterson’s shots whistle through the air, saw the explosiveness in her strides. He saw a player with all the gifts in the world, but couldn’t figure out how to get that Peterson into an actual game.
But he knew what would happen when he finally did.
Try on these numbers for size: seven goals — six in the last four games — and three assists in 11 games. A plus-minus of +6, tied for highest on the team. That Peterson, a junior now, is oceans from last year’s Peterson, and Crookston, sitting at 5-6 after a recent four-game winning streak, is a better team for it.
“She's such a dynamic player, she needs to shoot the puck more,” Moe said. “I'm just so happy for her to see what she's capable of.”
See, the question for Peterson had only so much to do with confidence — an effective catch-all explanation for potential that hasn’t been tapped yet. Peterson may have the skills to dominate a game, but not exactly the mindset.
“She probably has more of that center mentality of dishing the puck,” Moe said. “I think it's naturally ingrained in her to be unselfish and to try to make everybody else better.”
Furthermore, as much as she was a part of the team, Peterson didn’t go to school with most of her teammates, didn’t live close to them, didn’t know them before last season. This season, however, she has five teammates from Mayville, including linemate Raina Satrom.
Despite a more assertive mentality, she still looks to make her linemates — Satrom and Cassie Solheim — better, and it’s shown: the two have combined for nine points in the last five games.
“Her linemates being a couple of eighth-graders — and one of them who she's known forever from Mayville — I think that's allowed her to be more comfortable,” Moe said. “She’s even maybe taking the role of the older sister with those two.”
And last Thursday, older sister took the role of superstar, right when it mattered most.
Crookston and Detroit Lakes were tied in the waning minutes of an important section game when the Pirates won a faceoff in the Lakers’ zone. Peterson got her stick to the puck and skated towards the net.
No one there for her to defer to, no one there to stop her but the goalie. This was all up to Peterson, and she made sure of it. She deked, she shot, she put Crookston up 2-1.
Ninety seconds later, Peterson put the game away in about as definitive a fashion as possible, setting up by the blue line and firing low and hard past the goalie’s pads.
“She just kinda (took) the reins there in the third periodand said, ‘We're gonna score some goals, I might have to do it myself,’ ” Moe said. “That second goal especially, she was trying to get the puck to the net, the puck didn't get all the way to the goalie and she was able to just make a great play. That's a great player making a great play.”
Peterson’s unselfishness is a talent in and of itself. A year ago, it was her most apparent. But as her career progresses, she’s steadily learning when to sit back like in the past — and when to instead come out, guns blazing, and show everyone else what Moe saw a year and a half ago.
“I think more lately, I've definitely see the results,” she said. “I think now I'll probably have a little bit more confidence going into future games.”
“For her to be able to just take that next step and gain the confidence and just be herself,” Moe said, “this is who she is.”
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