ROCHESTER, Minn. – After a dramatic victory Friday night on the road over Coulee Region, Saturday’s regular season finale ended with a thud for the Grizzlies. The Chill scored five unanswered en route to a 7-1 win over the Grizzlies. The loss puts Rochester at 31-12-1-0 (63 points) and in third place in the West Division in just its first season.
Nick Bucklin earned the start for Rochester after picking up the win Friday night on the road. Coulee Region opened the scoring 6:26 into the first as Marco Escobar beat Bucklin with a wraparound. Porter Haney took a holding penalty at 12:01 of the first and it put the third ranked power play in the North American 3 Hockey League on the ice. Rochester, MN native Brandon Ratzloff beat Bucklin on the ice, putting the Chill up 2-0 just 15 seconds into the power play. The Chill would end the period with 17 shots on net compared to just eight for Rochester.
The Grizzlies would start to battle back in the second period. Joey Fodstad scored his 20th of the season (third Grizzly to do so) by knocking a rebound past Chill goalie Devin Naidow. Matt DeRosa picked up the assist after putting the puck on net. The Grizzlies would have a couple more good looks on Naidow, but he was up to the task. Coulee Region would start to pull away as Donny Schultz regained the two-goal lead as his shot bounced up on Bucklin and banked off him and into the net. Sam Dabrowski scored two with less than three minutes to go in the second. His second goal chased Rochester goalie Nick Bucklin. Liam Kelly came into replace Bucklin.
The third period was all Coulee Region. Thomas Magnavite scored his 53rd of the season on the power play just 20 seconds into the third. Ratzloff, the former John Marshall student, picked up the assist on the goal. Toon De Schepper added more salt to the wound with a shorthanded goal at 12:53 of the third with just two seconds left on a Grizzlies power play. That shorthanded goal marked the Chill’s 18th of the season, the most in the NA3HL. Rochester would be out-shot by Coulee Region 48-35 in the game.
Rochester is now set to face the North Iowa Bulls in the first round of the West Division bracket of the NA3HL playoffs. The Bulls are the two seed, clinching that spot after Rochester’s loss Saturday. North Iowa went on to beat Peoria Saturday 8-2 to finish with 67 points, four up on the Grizzlies. First place Granite City will take on fourth place Alexandria in the first round.
The Grizzlies will host game two Saturday March 16th at 7:05pm from the Rochester Rec Center. Game one will be Friday night in Mason City, IA and Sunday’s game, if necessary, will be in Mason City, as well. Stay tuned to the Grizzlies’ website and social media pages in the coming days for more information on the first round schedule.