skip navigation

Scary sight

By Loren Nelson, 04/15/20, 12:15PM CDT


With defenseman Jack Peart leading the way, No. 9 Grand Rapids revives 'Halloween Machine' moniker

Jack Peart, a junior committed to St. Cloud State, led Grand Rapids with 13 goals and 31 points last season. Photo by Loren Nelson,

Our too-early look at Class 2A continues as we count down the top 25 big-school teams for the 2020-21 season.

9. Grand Rapids

2019-20 Record: 18-8-1
Playoffs: Lost 3-1 to Elk River/Zimmerman in Section 7AA semifinals
Seniors lost: 8
Goals for: 83
Goals lost: 17 | Goals returning: 66
Goals against: 46
Goalie minutes lost: 1387:54 | Goalie minutes returning: 0
Power-play percentage: 19.7
Penalty-kill percentage: 85.3

All hail the “Halloween Machine.” One of the state’s most lasting and colorful nicknames fits like a freshly baked skate on one of the state’s historically great programs — a program that has won four state titles among its 16 tourney appearances, the most recent championship coming in 2017.

The orange and black-clad Thunderhawks were, indeed, machinelike starting back in the 1970s when they were nicknamed the Indians, dominated the then all-powerful Iron Range Conference, won back-to-back titles in 1975 and 1976 and tacked on two runner-up and two third-place finishes in the decade.

Dominance has been more fleeting since those glory years, but every so often Grand Rapids resurfaces with a large group of uber talented, highly driven players capable of beating any team in the state. This is one of those times.

Leading the assembly line of 14 sophomores and juniors who scored at least one point last season is junior defenseman Jack Peart, a St. Cloud State commit who draws rave reviews from opposing coaches and NHL scouts. Peart, who had team highs of 13 goals and 31 points last season, is undoubtedly one of the top two or three returning defensemen in the state and is on the short list of too-early Mr. Hockey Award frontrunners.

Other returning defensemen include junior Easton Young (7 goals, 7 assists) and sophomores Ren Morque and Sam Sterle (five points each).

Junior Bradeden Holcomb is the top-scoring returning forward with 29 points, including eight goals. Super sophomore Joey DelGreco managed to score 19 points despite missing six games and junior Hunter Bishoff was second on the team in goals with 10.

Junior John Bonner (7 goals) adds to the team’s deep and skilled forward unit as does Hayden Demars, who managed five goals despite also sitting out several games.

With the defense and forward groups mostly set, the great unknown lies in goal. Senior Carter Clafton was brilliant last season while posting a 1.58 goals against average and .935 save percentage, some of the best numbers in the state. Clafton’s backup, Jacob Ahcan, only played a couple of periods and he, too, is a senior. That leaves junior Carter Brewster as the lone returning goaltender.

Among the other departing seniors — eight in all — Maccrea Murphy was the top scorer with nine goals and 27 points (third best on the team in both categories). Cooper Brodzinski (4 goals, 6 assists) was the only other player to reach double digits in points. 

More than 400 interviews

Hundreds of vintage photos

Chapter for every year

Top 10 Charts

Dozens of vignettes

Statistical Leaders

Tourney Time Teasers

  • O What a Relief

  • By David La Vaque 06/09/2020, 5:45pm CDT
  • Hill-Murray's Seamus Regan delighted father, brother by accomplishing what they couldn't
  • Read More
  • Danger Zone

  • By Loren Nelson 03/04/2020, 2:30pm CST
  • Goalies were once allowed to skate to opposite end — and did so at their own peril
  • Read More
  • The Heartbreak Kid

  • By David La Vaque 01/24/2020, 10:30am CST
  • Rob McClanahan and undefeated Mounds View dealt bitter state quarterfinal loss in 1976 by Steve Christoff and Richfield
  • Read More

The Full Nelson

  • Watch List

  • By Loren Nelson 11/07/2022, 8:00pm CST
  • Here are the five games you won't want to miss this season
  • Read More
  • Now You See It ...

  • By Loren Nelson 01/04/2022, 12:30pm CST
  • Houdini-like move by Andover's Cayden Casey joins list of greatest goals-gone-viral scored in recent history
  • Read More
  • The Real Hockeytown

  • By Loren Nelson 11/22/2021, 10:30pm CST
  • Season Primer: When Warroad plays, it's always a primetime event, especially in the Warriors' home town
  • Read More
  • Drama Kings

  • By Loren Nelson 11/18/2021, 12:45pm CST
  • Season Primer: The high school futures of Prior Lake stars Will Schumacher and Alex Bump were in doubt much of this fall
  • Read More
  • Law Aching

  • By Loren Nelson 03/24/2021, 1:00am CDT
  • Andover defenseman Kyle Law takes a beating in his two-way, high-danger role
  • Read More