ALEXANDRIA, MN. – The eighth time is the charm. After losing seven straight games to the Alexandria Blizzard dating back to last season, the Rochester Grizzlies finally got one in the win column. The Blizzard scored the first goal of the game but that’s all they would get, as Rochester stormed back for six straight goals and won 6-1 Friday night in Alexandria. Dating back to last season, the Grizzlies are 0-6-1 against the Blizzard with the overtime loss coming earlier this season in Rochester. This is also the seventh win in a row for Rochester.
Friday’s game marked the first meeting between the two teams in Alexandria and second of four overall. The Blizzard would start off the scoring and give their home crowd a reason to cheer. Nolan Westra knocked home a loose puck past Grizzlies goalie Shane Soderwall to give the Blizzard a 1-0 lead at 9:30 of the first period. Shots would be even in the first period with both teams tallying 12. After the first it was all Grizzlies.
Rochester came out strong to start the second period as Clayton Shultz beat Blizzard goalie Ville Hyttinen with a shot from the point. Shultz’s third goal of the season came just 1:27 into the second period. Lucas Newman and Jesper Hofling picked up the assists. Hunter Wilmes continued his strong play as of late, scoring his seventh of the season at 5:02 of the second period to make it 2-1. That goal gave Wilmes goals in three straight games. Garrett Smith and Michael Heitkamp assisted on Wilmes’ goal. Rochester would be awarded a major power play after Blizzard forward Austin McNeil was given a game misconduct for boarding. The Grizzlies wouldn’t waste much time as Logan Olson just over a minute later to make it 3-1 on the power play. Heitkamp made the nifty pass over to Olson with Lucas Newman adding the secondary assist. Shultz picked up his second of the game with 1:50 left in the period as Zak Justice provided the lone assist. This is the first multi-goal game in Shultz’s NA3HL career.
The Grizzlies kept their foot on the gas pedal in the third period. Rochester had a 3-1 lead after two periods over Alexandria in the game back on Nov. 9 before giving up two in the third and then losing 4-3 in overtime. They didn’t make the same mistake again. Wilmes added his second of the game at 5:35 of the third to extend the lead to 5-1. The St. Peter, MN native beat Hyttinen short side with a wrist shot. This marked the second straight two-goal game for Wilmes. Justice added a goal at 12:43 of the third for good measure to make it 6-1. Devin Hays and Shultz assisted on the goal. The secondary assist gave Shultz his first three point game of his NA3HL career.
After giving up the goal in the first period, Soderwall stopped everything the rest of the way. The Algonquin, IL native stopped 24 of 25 shots and improved his record to 8-1. Rochester outshot Alexandria 38-25 on the evening.
The Grizzlies now sit at 23-5-1 on the season which is good for 47 points. Friday’s win keeps them two points clear of the second place St. Louis Jr. Blues, who defeated the Wausau RiverWolves Friday evening. Rochester has another tough test Saturday night as it travels to North Iowa for a date with the Bulls. The Grizzlies are 1-1 against the Bulls this season after winning the most recent contest back on Dec. 13 at home. Saturday’s game is a 7:30 PM puck drop and can be found on Hockey TV.