ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Rochester Grizzlies’ second annual Pink in the Rink Night was a success both on and off the ice. Off the ice, a crowd of well over 1,000 showed up to show their support as money would be raised for Mayo Clinic for cancer research. The team did their part on the ice and came away with a huge 3-1 win over the North Iowa Bulls, their old West Division rival. The win extended the Grizzlies’ home win streak to 11 games, good for second best current home win streak and second best of the entire season. Only the Northeast Generals have a longer current and overall home win streak.
Saturday’s game would be the final time the Grizzlies and Bulls would see each other in the regular season. North Iowa won both games in Mason City while Rochester won the only meeting so far at the Rochester Recreation Center. The two teams would not end the season series without quite a bit of intensity.
The Grizzlies controlled play to start the first period, at one point outshooting the Bulls 7-0. It was only a matter of time before they’d get their first goal. Kasson, MN, native Nic Leisen stole the puck from behind the Bulls net, came out in front and wired a shot past goalie Joe Daninger to give Rochester a 1-0 lead. Leisen’s unassisted tally was his ninth of the season, coming at 15:05 of the first period. Rochester would fire 15 shots on Daninger in the first while North Iowa would only muster up four shots on net.
Rochester would keep its foot on the gas pedal in the second period, as Matt DeRosa extended the lead to 2-0 4:42 into the second. The play started with Michael Heitkamp chipping the puck out of the Grizzlies zone and it was settled down by Peyton Hart. He led a 2-on-1 the other way and made the feed over to DeRosa who tapped the puck into an empty net. There was no love lost in the second period as the penalties started to rack up, as well. The two teams would combine for 46 penalty minutes in the second period alone, including each picking up a 10 minute misconduct. Those came at the 17:56 mark as Paul Hofbauer and Bulls forward Carter Eha were assessed the penalties for continuing an altercation. Andrejs Bogdanovs gave the Grizzlies a late goal with just 2.7 seconds left in the period, as he tipped home a Devin Hays shot.
The Bulls would respond just 15 seconds into the third period, as Lucas Wahlin pounced on a rebound and beat Mathias Backstrom, cutting the lead to 3-1. North Iowa would take back-to-back penalties more than halfway through the third period, giving Rochester a brief 5-on-3 power play. Not only would the Grizzlies fail to convert, but they’d take two simultaneous penalties and give the Bulls their own 5-on-3 power play for 30 seconds. The Bulls would take a time out and the pull Daninger, giving them a 6-on-3 advantage. The Grizzlies would be on the penalty kill for the remainder of the third period. It was a dramatic end to the game, with the penalty killers coming up large and preserving the 3-1 victory.
Rochester would outshoot North Iowa 34-22, however North Iowa applied pressure in the third, tallying 12 of its shots that period. Backstrom only surrendered the one goal, improving his record to 14-3.
The Grizzlies remain 10 points ahead of St. Louis in the Central Division. Rochester now sits at 29-6-1 for 59 points, while St. Louis, which picked up a win Saturday, is at 49. The Grizzlies have 11 games remaining in the regular season, including a Sunday matinee with the Coulee Region Chill in La Crosse, WI. Puck drop for that game is set for 12 PM. Fans can find that game on Hockey TV.