SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. – After the result of Friday night’s game between the Rochester Grizzlies and Granite City Lumberjacks, fans in Sauk Rapids could expect another intense battle between two of the top teams in the North American 3 Hockey League. Saturday night, it was the Lumberjacks getting the better of the Grizzlies on their home ice, picking up the win 3-1.
The Grizzlies were without their two top defensemen, as Michael Heitkamp and Logan Olson were each serving an automatic one-game suspension after being given major penalties and game misconducts in Friday’s game. Luke McKinch and Trevor Hubert checked in at defense for Rochester instead.
Both teams traded a few chances in the first period but could not find the back of the net. Mathias Backstrom stopped all 10 Lumberjacks shots, as he earned the start on back-to-back nights. Nate Johnston fought off all six Rochester shots on goal. Neither team scored on the two power play chances they got.
The power play struggles would continue in the second period for Rochester, as they couldn’t capitalize on two power play chances, thus continuing their man-advantage struggles against Granite City. Nikolai Rajala broke the scoreless tie after a bouncing puck came right to his stick and he knocked it past Backstrom, who appeared to lose sight of the puck after a net mouth scramble. Sean Davidson doubled the lead to 2-0 for Granite City after scoring an unassisted goal with 2:34 remaining in the second.
Joey Fodstad would give the Grizzlies some life early in the third. Porter Haney chased the puck down behind the Lumberjacks net and passed it to Fodstad in front. The Grizzlies’ leading goal scorer received the pass and put the puck between his own legs and scored in what as known as the “Marek Malik move.” The goal was Fodstad’s 12th of the season and came at 3:21 of the third, making it 2-1.
The Grizzlies got into some penalty trouble themselves, as defenseman Ethan Noonan was given a five-minute major for cross checking with 5:38 to go in the third. Rochester looked to gain some momentum after killing off full two minute five-on-three as Clayton Shultz took a slashing penalty at 16:05 of the third.
After killing off both penalties, Rochester pulled Backstrom looking to tie the game. The Grizzlies could not get set up inside the Granite City zone and Cody Dias capped it off by scoring an empty-net goal for the Lumberjacks with just three seconds left.
Saturday’s game marked the second straight and second time in general the Grizzlies were outshot in a game, this time 30-24. Backstrom stopped 27 of the 29 shots he saw. The power play struggled for Rochester again, going 0 for 7 Saturday. The Grizzlies finished 0 for 11 in the two games against Granite City this weekend.
Rochester (9-3-0-0, 18 points) still sits in second place in the Central Division, trailing only the St. Louis Jr. Blues. The Grizzlies are off next weekend before returning home Nov. 1 and 2 for games against the Peoria Mustangs and Milwaukee Power, respectively. Both games are 7pm start times from the Rochester Rec Center. For information on tickets, call the Grizzlies’ front office at 507-722-0415.