ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Rochester Grizzlies and Peoria Mustangs knew this weekend would be a battle. Coming into Friday’s game at the Rochester Recreation Center, the Grizzlies had a three point lead over the Mustangs for first place in the Central Division. After opening the scoring, Rochester gave up three straight goals and couldn’t get the equalizer, ultimately falling 3-2 to the Central Division rival.
Rochester came out flying in the first period, racking up shots on Mustangs goalie and Rochester, MN native Cole Walter. Micah Gernander was the first to break the ice as he settled down the puck before flipping a backhand high to Walter’s glove side at 7:29 of the first, his sixth goal of the season. Cody Reagle assisted on the goal. The Grizzlies would continue to fire rubber on Walter, but only got the one of the 22 shots on net past him. Rochester, meanwhile, held Peoria to just five shots in the first period.
The second period is where it would start to go wrong for the Grizzlies. Ethan Chesney circled up to the top of the slot and beat Zach Wiese to the glove side, tying the game at one. Just 25 seconds later, former Grizzly Thomas Kayner scored his sixth of the season, giving Peoria the 2-1 lead. Both goals were unassisted and both came within the first two minutes of the period. Peoria would look much stronger in the second period, out-shooting Rochester 12-9.
The Mustangs got off to an even quicker start in the third period, as Connor Bennett beat Wiese just 17 seconds into the third period, making it 3-1 for the visitors. The Grizzlies would find themselves in penalty trouble early in the third period, as well, having to kill off a brief five-on-three power play for Peoria. Rochester would come within one as Matt DeRosa knocked home a loose puck on the power play with 4:32 to go in the third period. Walter was out of position, allowing DeRosa to knock the puck into a wide open cage. Joey Fodstad and Teppei Ueno picked up the assists. Rochester could not crack Walter again, as Peoria would kill off the rest of the clock and pick up the win.
Wiese stopped 21 of 24 shots he saw while his counterpart, Walter, stopped 38 of 40.
Rochester still sits atop the Central Division but now just by one point. The Grizzlies will head into Saturday’s rematch at 19-4-0-1 (39 points) and look for redemption. Of the three losses on home ice this season, the two regulation losses have been at the hands of the Mustangs. Saturday’s game is set for a 7:05 PM puck drop from the Rochester Recreation Center.