ROCHESTER, Minn. – The scene was set for a special night at the Rochester Recreation Center. The Rochester Grizzlies were holding their second annual Military Appreciation Night, honoring all service members and their families. The Alexandria Blizzard played the role of spoilers and continued their dominance of the Grizzlies. After capturing a two-goal lead, the Grizzlies fell to the Blizzard, 4-3 in overtime. With the loss, the Grizzlies are now 0-6-1-0 in seven games against Alexandria dating back to last season when the two were West Division rivals.
It was a large crowd on hand from the Rochester Recreation Center with Military Appreciation Night at hand. The Grizzlies wore custom sweaters for the game with an auction immediately following. Grizzlies faithful was given a reason to cheer early on, as Garrett Smith opened the scoring with a power play goal just 2:09 into the first period. Smith parked in front of Alexandria goalie Ville Hyttinen and backhanded the puck underneath him to give Rochester the lead. Noel Parker and Matt DeRosa assisted on Smith’s fourth goal of the season. Much of the first period play was dictated by the Grizzlies as they controlled possession and held a shot advantage. The Blizzard would tie the game at 11:27 as Ike Taraszewski beat Rochester goalie Sean Guerin with a wrist shot.
Alexandria picked up the pace in the second period, applying offensive zone pressure to start the period. However, it would be the Grizzlies who broke the tie. DeRosa would convert off the feed from Smith for his seventh of the season, making it 2-1 Rochester 3:27 in the second period. The Blizzard again kept coming back and controlled the play, but Guerin came up with a couple big stops to keep Rochester in the lead. After more offensive zone time for the Blizzard, DeRosa would find the back of the net again. Peyton Hart used his speed to get to the outside before passing the puck towards the front of the net for DeRosa to tip past Hyttinen, making it 3-1 Rochester with 50 seconds to go in the second.
In similar fashion to last season, the Blizzard were not done yet. Derek Dropik sparked some life into Alexandria by making it a one-goal game at the 7:12 mark of the third. Dallas Duckson passed the puck cross-ice and Dropik beat Guerin to the far side with a wrist shot for his seventh of the season. Just over two minutes later, Caleb Strong corralled a loose puck and beat Guerin high, tying the game at three. Alexandria had a chance to take the lead late, as the Grizzlies took two penalties with less than seven minutes to go in the third, including a tripping call on Hunter Wilmes with 2:06 to go. Rochester would kill off both third period penalties, and the game would go to overtime.
Rochester started off with DeRosa, Hart and Michael Heitkamp on the ice for the three-on-three. After losing possession of the puck, only DeRosa and Hart would be able to complete a line change. The Blizzard took advantage as Cole Lehmann stepped into a shot and beat Guerin at 1:26 of overtime to complete the comeback for Alexandria. Guerin got a piece of the shot but not enough.
The loss marked the first time this season the Grizzlies have lost when leading after two. Coming into the game, Rochester was 9-0 in such situations. Guerin stopped 30 of the 34 shots he saw while Hyttinen blocked 29 of 32.
Rochester still trails the Central Division leading St. Louis Jr. Blues. The Grizzlies (11-4-1-0, 23 points) lost both games on a weekend for the first time this season. The Jr. Blues defeated the Peoria Mustangs Saturday evening, pushing their point total to 27.
The Grizzlies have the week off next week before being back in action Thursday, Nov. 21st on the road against the Coulee Region Chill. Rochester has a road game Saturday the 23rd against the Wausau RiverWolves and are back home Nov. 29th and 30th for two games against the Peoria Mustangs.