ROCHESTER, Minn. – Mathias Backstrom has continued his winning ways. The goalie from Malmo, Sweden stopped 22 of 23 shots as the Grizzlies got a little redemption on the North Iowa Bulls with a 2-1 victory on home ice. Lucas Newman and Joey Fodstad scored the goals for Rochester in its final game before the North American 3 Hockey League Showcase Tournament in Blaine, MN.
Friday’s game marked the second of four between the former West Division rivals. North Iowa won the previous contest 8-2 on its home ice. This game marked the first time the Bulls have visited the Rochester Recreation Center since the 2019 Fraser Cup Playoffs.
The Grizzlies started off the stronger of two teams, eventually putting up 10 shots in the first compared to just five for the Bulls. Dysen Skinner and Backstrom stopped every shot they saw.
The Bulls would find the back of the net first, coming early in the second period. With Garrett Smith in the box for hooking, Dalton Saltness buried a Harrison Stewart feed for a 4-on-3 power play goal for North Iowa. Noel Parker and Carter Eha were already in the box for matching minors. The lead wouldn’t last long as Newman roofed a shot over Skinner to tie the game at 8:07 of the second. Newman received a pass from Michael Heitkamp and beat Skinner short side as the goalie came just far enough off the post to allow Newman some room.
Both teams would remain tied for the rest of the second period, as they were evenly matched for most of the game. North Iowa earned more chances to start the third but Backstrom shut the door. Fodstad pounced on a rebound and beat Skinner top shelf for his 17th of the season, breaking the tie. Devin Hays picked up the lone assist on the goal. Backstrom stopped all eight shots he saw in the third to preserve the lead.
The win gives Rochester a record of 17-5-1 on the season good for 35 points. This puts the Grizzlies two points clear of the St. Louis Jr. Blues for first place in the division.
Rochester starts the NA3HL Showcase Tournament Sunday against the Elmira Jr. Soaring Eagles with a 1:30 PM puck drop from the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine. Monday’s game is a date with the Bozeman Icedogs at 1:15 PM and they end the tournament Tuesday morning against the Texas Brahmas at 9:30. All games can be found on Hockey TV. Ticket information can be found on the NA3HL website. The Grizzlies are back home at the Rochester Recreation Center New Year’s Eve for a 7 PM puck drop against the Wausau RiverWolves.