ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Rochester Grizzlies came into Saturday night’s game against the Peoria Mustangs having won the first five meetings between the teams this season. Saturday would prove to me one of the most difficult ones to win. After falling behind 1-0 after the first period, the Grizzlies scored two in the second and held on in the third to win 2-1 in front of a home crowd at the Rochester Recreation Center. With the win, the Grizzlies are now tied for first place in the Central Division with the St. Louis Jr. Blues.
Penalties would be the story of this game. Peoria would be awarded an early power play as Nic Leisen would be sent to the box for hooking at 3:15 of the first period. The Mustangs would lose the power play not too long after as Tristan Trudel would sit for four minutes. However, Zak Justice would take an interference minor at 4:32 of the first, giving Peoria a brief four-on-three power play. Austin Keil would redirect a Dillan Bentley pass between the legs of Mathias Backstrom to give Peoria the 1-0 lead at 4:53 of the first.
Lucas Newman would tie the game at 3:13 of the second, after being sprung on a partial breakaway by Nic Leisen. Newman slid a backhand past Rochester, MN Cole Walter. Jesper Hofling picked up the secondary assist on Newman’s ninth of the season. The penalties would continue in the second period. Noel Parker was assessed a game misconduct at 12:39 of the second and given a roughing call. Hunter Wilmes would score on the ensuing Mustangs power play after beating Walter with a backhand on a breakaway. Wilmes’ shorthanded goal marked his third of the season. It was also the Grizzlies’ ninth shorthanded goal of the season.
Things would calm down in the third period, as there would only be two penalties combined, one for each team. The teams combined for 32 penalty minutes in the second period. Backstrom shut the door the rest of the way and picked up his second win in as many games. The Malmo, Sweden native stopped 26 of 27 shots he saw on net. He improved to 7-2 on the season with a 1.31 goals against average and a .946 save percentage.
The teams combined for 48 penalty minutes on the game, 30 for Rochester and 18 for Peoria. Last night the teams only registered 31 penalty minutes combined.
Rochester now improves to 15-4-1-0 for 31 points. For the first time this season, the Grizzlies are in first place after moving into a tie with St. Louis. Rochester has still played four less games than the Jr. Blues. The two teams will meet up next weekend for games Saturday and Sunday in St. Louis. First place will be on the line as it’s the only time the Grizzlies will travel to St. Louis this season. The Grizzlies will be back home Friday, December 13th for a date with the North Iowa Bulls.