MASON CITY, Iowa – A dramatic and exciting inaugural season came to an end in heartbreaking fashion. After battling back to tie the series at one game apiece Saturday night, the Rochester Grizzlies fell to the North Iowa Bulls Sunday evening, 4-1. Thus ends a strong first season.
Sunday night had the feel of a game three, with both teams seemingly playing like it could be their last game. Rochester would get what would be the lone power play chance in the game for either team at 7:46 of the first. Neither power play unit would convert. Any chance that got through, Dysen Skinner stopped. It would remain scoreless through the end of the first with the Grizzlies putting up 13 shots to 10 for the Bulls.
North Iowa would open the scoring at 3:01 of the second as Brendan Studioso pick-pocketed Kory Potach and beat Bucklin through the five-hole. That brought the Bulls faithful to life and they would remain loud not too long after as Nick Johnson beat Bucklin with a wrist shot from the slot. Both goals were unassisted.
“I thought the first period we were okay. We took care of the puck pretty well, played in their end. We had 13 shots. Still a little bit perimeter,” said Head Coach Casey Mignone. “Second period we got a little stressed out, trying to do a little bit too much on our own. Turning pucks over in our own zone. They had a greater sense of urgency than we did tonight.”
Jimmy McDermott extended the lead to 3-0 just over 12 minutes into the third period. Studioso intercepted a pass that hit Colin Mehren in his skates and passed it to McDermott, who beat Bucklin back door. Peyton Hart scored the lone goal for the Grizzlies, his first of the playoffs, at 15:50 of the third. The Grizzlies had the goalie pulled at the time and still had four minutes of time with which to work. It wouldn’t come to fruition as McDermott added an empty net goal with 39 seconds remaining to clinch it for the Bulls.
The Grizzlies finished their inaugural season with a 31-15-1 regular season record, good for third place in the West Division.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around the whole year right now. A first year program with 31 wins, pushing [North Iowa] to game three. Guys have a lot to be proud of,” said Mignone.