Sabres' Peterson coming into his own for 'Riders

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CEDAR RAPIDS - You'd figure most guys wouldn't be able to sleep because of apprehension and excitement. Not Judd Peterson.

The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward ZZZZed his way right through the biggest moment of his hockey life thus far: getting taken in last June's NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres.

"I didn't want to put much hype into it, just waiting and sitting there, so I slept in that morning," Peterson said. "I wake up to some calls from my dad and my buddies. Actually missed the call from Buffalo letting me know I'd been drafted."

Peterson was surprised that anyone took him at all. The 19-year-old center-winger was one of Minnesota's top prep players last year at Duluth Marshall High School, but he didn't make the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's list of top draft-eligible North American skaters.

The Sabres had a scout in the Duluth area that liked him, though, and the club ended up drafting him in the seventh round. Peterson attended Buffalo's prospect camp last July.

"I think that helped me, it has motivated me," Peterson said. "Because that's where I eventually want to get - the NHL."

He's got some developing to do before that's realistic. Peterson was Cedar Rapids' top pick in last spring's USHL Entry Draft, but he has struggled at times making the adjustment from prep to high-level junior hockey.

Sizeable (6-foot, 200 pounds) and skilled with a good shot, he has been a healthy scratch from time to time. He said that has been tough to take.

"To be honest, I knew this was a hard league, but I didn't think it would be as much of an uphill battle as it's turned out to be," he said. "I didn't see all this coming. It kind of hit me fast. I've battled quite a bit of adversity, and I love Coach (Mark) Carlson for doing that. So far this season, he's taught me a lot. To be more mentally tough, which every hockey player needs."

Peterson has turned things around to the tune of two goals and eight points in his last four games. He also has posted a plus-minus rating of plus-seven over his last three, including a plus-four effort last Saturday night in a 6-1 win at Waterloo.

It's coming.

"He's making great progress," Carlson said. "It's a tough league, and it takes time to get adjusted to it. I think he's done a really good job of sticking to it and battling and working. Right now, he is really playing well."

Peterson said he has had a lot of sitdown chats with Carlson in an attempt to get going, and those talks are beginning to pay off. He's up to seven goals and 13 assists in 26 games this season.

"I think it's just confidence. Getting some confidence in me," Peterson said. "Being in the lineup more consistently and my play getting a little bit better every game, my confidence has just gotten a lot better. Confidence is such a big part of the game."

Peterson is a St. Cloud State signee but said it is undetermined whether he will go to college next season or return to the RoughRiders.

ON TAP: The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders play a pair of home games this weekend, hosting the Muskegon Lumberjacks tonight and Dubuque Fighting Saints on Saturday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Opening faceoff both nights is approximately 7:15.

SCOUTING REPORT: The Riders had a five-point week last night, losing in a shootout to Tri-City and posting back-to-back wins over Tri-City and Waterloo. They have 34 points on a 14-4-4 record, fourth in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. Muskegon is second in the East with 41 points (19-12-3 record) and Dubuque is first with 48 points (23-6-2 record). Forward Judd Peterson has four goals and eight points in his last four games for the Riders. Defenseman Clark Kuster has three goals and three assists in his last four games, while forward Jack Rowe has three goals and five points in his last five games. Dubuque’s Mike Szmatula stands second in the USHL with 44 points (21 goals, 23 assists) in 31 games.

PETRASH SUSPENDED BY USHL: RoughRiders forward Corey Petrash has incurred a 10-game suspension by the United States Hockey League after receiving a match penalty (intent to injure) for elbowing in Cedar Rapids’ game against Waterloo last Saturday. He won’t be eligible to return to action until the Riders’ Feb. 9 game at Chicago. Petrash has five goals, nine assists and a plus-nine plus-minus rating in 31 games.

PROMOTIONS: Tonight is Union Night. Kids also can get their face painted for free. Saturday is Warm Hands, Warm Hearts Night. Fans who donate a pair of new gloves for the needy receive two free chuck-a-pucks.

TICKETS: $14 to $20 at the Ice Arena box office (261-GOAL) or online at

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