ROCHESTER, Minn. – Peyton Hart showed why he earned the “C” on his sweater tonight. The captain of the Grizzlies opened the scoring 43 seconds into the second period, Michael Heitkamp added the insurance goal and Mathias Backstrom picked up the 17-save shutout in a 2-0 victory for the Rochester Grizzlies over the Peoria Mustangs Friday evening. The win puts Rochester back in second place in the Central Division for the time being.
In the fifth of six meetings between the clubs, both got out to rather slow starts in the first period. Rochester was out-shooting Peoria 1-0 for the first few minutes of the period. Neither team found the back of the net, but Hart would have the best chance of the period. Hart was fed a pass by Garrett Smith but was denied by the glove of Mustangs goalie Jaden Gardner, who came across to rob the Grizzlies’ captain late in the first period. Gardner stopped all 10 shots he saw while Peoria only mustered four shots on Mathias Backstrom.
Hart would not be denied a second time, however. With both teams getting back to full-strength after two minutes of four-on-four hockey, Hart was sprung on a breakaway by Matt DeRosa. The Delafield, WI native faked a shot and slid a backhand between the pads of Gardner to make it 1-0 Grizzlies just 43 seconds into the second period. The goal marked Hart’s 10th of the season, as he trails only Joey Fodstad.
The Grizzlies would get an extended power play opportunity early in the third period. Jared Wisely would get a five-minute major for boarding just 2:10 into the third period. Nic Leisen was given a minor for roughing after going at Wisely at the end of the play. After Leisen exited the box, Rochester was given three minutes worth of a power play but couldn’t convert. Heitkamp gave the Grizzlies the insurance goal at 9:21 of the third. Jesper Hofling passed the puck over the Heitkamp at the point and his wrist shot got through traffic and beat Gardner clean to double the lead for Rochester. The Grizzlies would be tested late in the third as they had to kill off 1:32 of a two-man advantage for Peoria. Hart was instrumental on the kill as Rochester was able to kill off both late penalties to seal the deal.
Backstrom was not tested too much in the game as he only saw 17 shots on net. Rochester put up 37 on Peoria, with Jaden Gardner stopping 35. The shutout is Backstrom’s second of the season as he earned his sixth win of the season.
Rochester (14-4-1-0, 29 points) now jumps back into second place after moving past the idle Coulee Region Chill. The Grizzlies now sit two points behind the St. Louis Jr. Blues, who were also idle Friday evening. Rochester has five less games played than St. Louis and two less than Coulee Region.
The Grizzlies and Mustangs are back at it Saturday night from the Rochester Recreation Center with a 7PM puck drop. Saturday’s game is Rochester Youth Hockey Association Night. All kids who wear their RYHA sweaters get free admission to the game. There will be a post game skate with the Grizzlies. Also, Grizzlies’ mascot Boomer will be wearing a special RYHA style sweater which will be raffled off at the game with part of the proceeds being donated back to RYHA.