ST. PETERS, Missouri – For the first time in their short, three-year history, the Rochester Grizzlies are headed to the Fraser Cup Final after a dominating win over the Sheridan Hawks, 7-1. Joey Malugani notched a hattrick while Joey Fodstad recorded three assists to boost the black-and-gold over the NA3HL’s regular-season champions.
Coming into the game on Sunday afternoon, both the Grizzlies and the Hawks were fresh after having Saturday off, and the Central Division champs made sure to strike first. Joey Malugani broke the scoring open exactly seven minutes into the game with an incredible forehand-to-backhand move that completely fooled Sheridan goalie Christian Wong-Ramos. It only took a minute and fifteen seconds for the Grizzlies to take a 2-0 lead when Justin Wright netted his first goal of the playoffs. Still not done, Rochester got their second tally of the day from Joey Malugani who powered home a shot off a feed from Cody Reagle to make it 3-0. For Reagle, it was his second assist of the afternoon after helping on Malugani’s first goal. Then, with three-and-a-half minutes to go in the first, Garrett Smith jumped the Grizzlies out in front, 4-0. That would be all the scoring in the first twenty minutes, but it was a comfortable lead for Rochester in their first-ever NA3HL Fraser Cup Semi-final matchup.
In the second, the Hawks stopped the bleeding with a goal by the NA3HL’s leading scorer during the regular season, Jacob Cummings, but it didn’t do much to rattle the Grizzlies. It only took 20 seconds for the Grizzlies to respond, Matt DeRosa netting his third goal of the post-season and suddenly Rochester was back in control 5-1. Malugani continued his strong day with a power-play goal to complete the hattrick and continue building on the Grizzlies’ lead. The Rochester, MN, native rifled a shot top shelf from the base of the right circle lead the Grizzlies out in front, 6-1.
In the third, the Grizzlies got the period’s first goal more than mid-way through when Matt DeRosa slid a pass to the base of the left-wing circle for Peyton Hart who cannoned a shot top-shelf for the 7-1 Grizzlies lead. In the final six minutes of the game, Grizzlies Head Coach Chris Ratzloff opts to swap goaltenders, giving Shane Soderwall a break while also allowing Zach Wiese his first bit of postseason action this year. It would be a final five minutes to cherish for the Grizzlies as they outlasted a final power-play from the Hawks and earned the victory by a final score of 7-1.
Shane Soderwall earned the win by stopping 17 of the 18 shots he faced while Wiese was 1-for-1 on his chances in relief. For the Hawks, goaltender Christian Wong Ramos was handed the loss stopping 34 of 41 Grizzlies’ chances.
The Grizzlies will battle a familiar foe in the Fraser Cup Final, their old division rival North Iowa Bulls. While the two teams didn’t square off during the 2020-21 regular season, they did meet for a mid-season exhibition matchup in Mason City, IA, in December. The Grizzlies were victorious in that game by a final score of 4-3 in overtime. The last time the two teams met in the postseason, the Bulls knocked off the Grizzlies in three games during the first round of the Midwest Division Playoffs in the 2018-19 season. Coverage of the Fraser Cup Final begins on Monday, April 19, at 3 P.M. CDT exclusively on HockeyTV. North Iowa broadcaster Austin Draude will handle the play-by-play duties with Rochester Grizzlies color analyst Jarred Becker adding insights alongside.