ROCHESTER, Minn. – It was do or die in the Central Division Finals for the Rochester Grizzlies. After dropping game one in overtime and falling into a 1-0 hole to the Peoria Mustangs, the Grizzlies responded Friday night on home ice. Rochester trailed 1-0 after one but scored six unanswered en route to a big 6-1 from the Rochester Recreation Center to force a deciding game three Saturday night on home ice.
The visiting Mustangs took it to the Grizzlies in the first period. Peoria out-shot Rochester 12-6 but most importantly led the game 1-0. Heath Drye led an odd-man rush and had a nice pass to Connor Bennett who beat Grizzlies goalie Shane Soderwall with a backhander on the ice. The undisciplined play was apparent early on in this one, with five penalties being called in the first period. Wednesday’s game just had four total.
Rochester came out with some life in the second period, challenging local goalie product Cole Walter with traffic in front. The Grizzlies would finally solve Walter as Blake Arneson’s point shot got deflected and trickled through Walter for a power play goal. Just 29 seconds later, Joey Malugani scored a highlight reel goal of his own, making a power move and sliding the puck past Walter to give the Grizzlies the lead. Then 23 seconds after that, Rochester native Dylan Schneider scored his second of the playoffs to make it 3-1. Rochester scored three goals in 52 seconds and they all came with less than two minutes left in the second period.
The Grizzlies kept pouring it on in the third period, as Teppei Ueno beat new Peoria goalie Andrew Doran to the blocker side, making it 4-1 at the 3:55 mark of the first. Joey Fodstad added another power play goal and his first of the playoffs coming at 10:18 of the third. Hunter Wilmes scored a minute and a half later to cap it off for the Grizzlies.
Rochester held Peoria to just 19 shots in the game after being held to 17 of their own in Wednesday’s game. The Grizzlies this time managed to put up 32 shots on Peoria. Soderwall stopped 18 of 19 to pick up the win.
Game three is Saturday evening from the Rochester Recreation Center at 7:05. The winner will advance to the Fraser Cup Championship in St. Peters, MO. For tickets, head to the single game tickets tab on the Grizzlies website. Doors open at 6:20.