ROCHESTER, Minn. – In what was a critical West Division match-up, the Grizzlies came up short. Rochester opened the scoring but it was all North Iowa afterwards as the Bulls came away with a 3-1 victory in Rochester Saturday night.
The Grizzlies (20-8-0-0) came into the night sitting two points back of the second place Bulls and three back of the first place Granite City Lumberjacks. Granite City had the night off, making this game even more crucial for both Rochester and North Iowa.
Brock Hildenbrand opened the scoring on the power play at 6:43 of the first with the assists going to Lucas Newman and Richard Szabo. The goal was Hildenbrand’s fourth of the season and second power play goal. The score would stand at 1-0 after one.
“I liked our play for about 10 minutes to start the game. We were pretty good and then we started watching a little bit and they’re a good team. They kind of got their bearings and this was their first game after the break. I think that was a little bit of a factor in the first period. I thought we were solid in the first period,” said Head Coach Casey Mignone.
The second period was a much different one for the Grizzlies, as North Iowa controlled most of the play and it showed on the scoreboard.
Matt Dahlseide extended his point streak to 16 games (current league best) by scoring on a nice feed from Erik Evans to tie the game. Just over a minute later Marco Escobar broke the tie with his 11th goal of the season.
“In the second, a couple breakdowns and a good team like North Iowa will put it in the back of the net on a breakdown. That’s what happened tonight,” said Seth Bacon.
Just 33 seconds into the third period, the Bulls extended the lead to 3-1 on what was an extremely odd goal. Peter Verstegen shot the puck from the slot and the puck went off the boards hitting Grizzlies defenseman Nathan Bennett and going into the net.
Rochester would have chances towards the end of the game, including an extended five-on-three power play with less than two minutes to go, but could not get one past Bulls goalie Dysen Skinner. It was eventually a six-on-three for Rochester as goalie Liam Kelly was pulled for the extra attacker.
“We needed to move it (the puck) high to low quicker. We were moving it really slow. We were stickhandling in the corner, waiting for them to come to us. We should’ve just gone up and over, taken a shot for the rebound and crash the net,” said Matt DeRosa.
Liam Kelly was saddled with the loss, giving up three goals on 29 shots.
“Liam was great. He was our best player tonight. He did everything in his power to give us a chance to win. The third one was a fluke, goes off the glass and over the net, hits the defenseman and goes in. That’s just a bad break. But Liam was great,” said Mignone.
The Grizzlies are back in action Monday night, on the road against the Willmar War Hawks in a New Years Eve game. Their next home game is a Wednesday date with Granite City on Jan. 9.