ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Rochester Grizzlies joined the Central Division in the off-season after playing their inaugural season in the North American 3 Hockey League’s West Division. Not only have the Grizzlies had success so far in their first season, they’ve dominated. Friday was another case when they defeated their rival Coulee Region Chill 11-0, clinching first place in the Central Division.
Coming into the game, Rochester held a nine point lead over second-place St. Louis, which could not mathematically catch the Grizzlies. Coulee Region, despite being in third place, was the only team who could catch Rochester since each team had six games remaining, including Friday’s contest. The Chill came into Friday 10 points back and have beaten Rochester two times in a row.
Noel Parker opened the scoring for Rochester in the first period, just 3:51 in. Parker’s shot from the point got through traffic and beat Michael Janke, who got the start in favor of Devin Naidow. Parker tallied his second of the evening at 7:10 of the first, just five seconds after a power play ended for the Grizzles. Matt DeRosa had a lead pass up to Parker who beat a defender to the net and knocked home his own rebound. The goal marked Parker’s first multi-goal effort on the season. Lucas Newman got in on the action with 4:05 to go in the third as he tallied his 21st goal of the season. Newman’s shot rang off the bar and in, extending the lead to 3-0.
Rochester continued its dominant ways in the second period as Paul Hofbauer knocked in his own rebound just 1:25 into the period. The goal chased Janke as he was replaced by Naidow. Clayton Shultz picked up the primary assist on the goal. The Grizzlies really poured it on in the second as they scored three more times in the period. Newman collected his second of the game at 9:37 with Parker and Shultz assisting on the goal. Porter Haney and Devin Hays also scored in the period, with Hays’ goal coming shorthanded. His goal marked the 13th time this season Rochester has scored a shorthanded goal.
With the score being 7-0 after two, Rochester kept the foot on the gas pedal in the third. DeRosa scored a power play goal for the Grizzlies at 2:52 of the period. His power play goal ended a 0 for 39 drought dating back to a Jan. 24 game against Wausau. The drought also included chances in Friday’s game where Rochester couldn’t capitalize. Joey Fodstad got in on the action with his 23rd goal of the season. He broke the short lived tie for team lead in goals with Newman, as they were tied at 22. Shultz made it 10-0 at 6:55 of the third, with his goal coming just 45 seconds after Fodstad scored. Ethan Noonan scored with 1:25 left to give the Grizzlies the 11-0 lead.
Mathias Backstrom stopped all 23 shots he saw for his fourth shutout of the season. Parker finished with two goals and three assists on the night. Only five skaters out of the 19 dressed for Rochester did not register points. Ten Grizzlies had multi-point efforts on the evening.
The Grizzlies now stand at 32-8-1-1 with 66 points and first place in the Central Division locked up. They will have home-ice advantage for the first two rounds of the Fraser Cup Playoffs. Rochester has the rest of the weekend off before going back on the road next weekend for a Saturday game against Wausau and then a Sunday meeting with Coulee Region. Those will be the eighth and final meetings between the Grizzlies and both those clubs this season.
Rochester is back home Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7 against the St. Louis Jr. Blues. Friday’s game is Billet Appreciation Night, with Saturday being Fan Appreciation Night. Doors open at 6 PM for both games.