Hockey: Who Has The Hardest Shot On I-380?

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Corey Petrash was probably the favorite on paper. On glass, actually.

A week earlier, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward broke a pane of plexiglass behind one of the nets with a shot. The maintenance crew at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena was muttering his name while cleaning up the mess.

"It really wasn't that hard a shot," Petrash said. "It was a snap shot. It must have hit a weak spot in the glass. I don't have that hard a shot. I'm just a little guy."

The winners in this season's edition of the "Hardest Shot Competition" were Davey Middleton and Paul O'Connor at 91 miles per hour.

"That's slower than what I did last year," said Middleton, whose slap shot was clocked at 93 mph in 2012.

Perfect Game USA of Cedar Rapids provided the radar gun. Each player who wanted to compete got three shots from between the faceoff circles.

A Gazette reporter, in a true moment of insanity, sat perched on the ice behind a net to clock each shot. Late in the competition, a blast may or may not have found its way through the twine and missed his noggin by a small margin.

That didn't dissuade him enough not to sit behind a net a couple of weeks later at Waterloo's Young Arena to include the Waterloo Black Hawks in the competition. Call it the "Hardest Shot on Interstate-380."

The Hawks' odds-on favorite was defenseman Ian McCoshen, a sizable defenseman (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and probable high NHL draft pick this summer.

"Ah, I bet you'll be surprised," Waterloo Coach P.K. O'Handley said, when told of McCoshen's front-runner status.

O'Handley was right. The winner was winger J.T. Stenglein with a blast of 96 miles per hour. ---- That's moving, folks. McCoshen, by the way, went "only" 92, 93, 93 on his attempts.

"I just tried to swing as hard as I could," Stenglein said. "I think the stiffer the stick, the more whip you will get. ... (It's) just being comfortable with the blade and stick, maybe a flatter curve. I didn't expect to see a 96 mile-per-hour shot. The guys said they thought I could win, so it felt good to see it on the radar." ---- "I think that it is great for him," Middleton said. "It shows that he is a strong kid."

Size does matter when it comes to a hard slap shot. That's why 6-foot-9 Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara has the fastest shot on record at 108.8 miles per hour at an NHL skills competition a couple of years ago.

Hand-eye coordination and equipment also matter. That's why you saw two of the smallest RoughRiders hit 90. Forward Andrew Poturalski (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) nailed that number. O'Connor is 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds. And just 16 years old.

"It felt great ripping a 91," he said. "I only hope I get the opportunity to do that during a game. It was a big surprise to me, and, of course, all the guys when it happened."

There were several cries of "What?" and "No way" when O'Connor's 91 was announced. It's legit, considering he also had a blast of 88.

"I was very surprised to see Paul tied with me," Middleton said. "He surprised us all with that shot. Well, I think what goes into a hard slap shot is a lot of strength. Also, the curve doesn't have too much affect, but the stiffness (of the blade) may have some affect, depending on the player. Personally, I like to have a stiff stick. But others like it to have more flex."

"I don't think size and age has anything to do with it," O'Connor said. "It's just how much you work on your shot and develop your strength. Focus and discipline is the key."
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