ROCHESTER, Minn. – It was easy to tell the Rochester Grizzlies and Granite City Lumberjacks remember their games from last season. The two former West Division rivals battled in an intense game from at the Rochester Rec Center that saw plenty of hits, penalties and nice goals. In the end, it was the Grizzlies who would be victorious, taking the game 4-2.
Friday’s contest marked the first meeting between the teams this season and opened up a weekend home-and-home series between the clubs. Friday was also the inaugural First Responders Night for the Grizzlies, as first responders from Rochester and surrounding areas attended the game.
The Lumberjacks would open the scoring as Carson Simon picked off an Andrejs Bogdanovs clearing attempt before setting up Bailey Sommers with a nice saucer pass as the latter beat Grizzlies goalie Mathias Backstrom. The goal came at the 5:24 mark of the first period. It would be the only goal of the first frame, as Rochester would not be able to capitalize on two power plays.
The second period saw a response from Rochester as well as plenty of rough stuff. Rochester, MN native Lucas Newman was sprung on a partial breakaway after a feed from Zak Justice and the forward tucked the puck in the near post, past a sprawled out Bailey Huber to tie the game at one. Newman’s fifth goal of the season came at 7:22 of the second and Rochester would gain the lead just over three minutes later. Matt DeRosa scored from a bad angle, banking the puck off Huber and sneaking it inside the near post for his third of the year. Peyton Hart tallied the lone assist on the goal.
The intensity level picked up in the second, too. Multiple off-setting double minor roughing calls were made throughout the period, with the most notable ones coming with just over a minute left. Michael Heitkamp was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for a facemask, putting Granite City on a five-minute power play. Sommers and Blake Spetz were given double minors for roughing for the Lumberjacks while Logan Olson picked up a double minor for roughing for the Grizzlies.
The major penalty carried over into the third period, as on the penalty kill Garrett Smith was given a minor for kneeing, putting Granite City on a 5-on-3 power play. Spetz would step out of the box after serving his penalty and knocked home a rebound to tie the game at two at 1:41 of the third. Backstrom made a terrific initial save while lunging to his left, but could not stop the rebound.
Olson was assessed a five minute major and game misconduct at the four minute mark for head contact, after he knocked Lumberjacks forward Ryan Pogue to the ice. With Heitkamp and Olson gone, the Grizzlies were down their top pair of defensemen.
Rochester would successfully kill off the major penalty to Olson. The game would remain tied at two for most of the third period until Kasson, MN native Nic Leisen broke the tie. Jesper Hofling shook off a defender before putting a shot on net and the rebound came right to Leisen who knocked him home for his third of the season at 16:23 of the third. It would be the eventual game-winner, as Devin Hays tacked on an empty net goal with 1:15 left.
This game marked the first time the Grizzlies (9-2-0-0, 18 points) were outdone in the shot department, as the Lumberjacks put up 36 compared to 29 for Rochester. Backstrom picked up his third win of the season.
The teams are back at it Saturday evening from Sauk Rapids, MN, home of the Lumberjacks. Puck drop is slated for 7:30. The Grizzlies are back home Friday Nov. 1 against Peoria and then Saturday Nov. 2 to take on Milwaukee.