LA CROSSE, Wis. – With second place in the West Division up for grabs, the Rochester Grizzlies knew this would be a big weekend. Sitting two points behind the North Iowa Bulls and each team having two games left, the Grizzlies need to win out to have a good chance at second place. Friday night proved to be a tough one but the Grizzlies came out on top, 5-3, over the Coulee Region Chill thanks to two goals from Oskar Stahl.
Friday’s game was the third contest between the two teams, with Rochester winning the first two back in early December. This weekend is a home-and-home just like the two games back in December.
Lukas Jenkins picked up his fourth goal of the season to open the scoring for the Grizzlies just 2:50 into the first period. Kory Potach added the lone assist on Jenkins’ goal. Vladislav Sorokin would later dance through the neutral zone and through the Chill defense and fed Lucas Newman for an easy tap-in goal, putting Rochester up 2-0 at 14:17 of the first. The goal was Newman’s 16th of the season.
The Grizzlies would jump out to a 3-0 lead at 12:49 of the second as Vladislav Sorokin scored his 41st of the season. Richard Szabo and Logan Olson tallied the assists on the goal. The rest of the period would be all Coulee Region. Thomas Magnavite continued his strong season, scoring his 51st goal of the season to cut the lead to 3-1 at 15:58 of the second. Rochester would get into some penalty trouble and the Chill would capitalize. Brady Lindauer picked up his 57th of the season at 16:45 of the second and on the power play. Magnavite tied the game for the Chill with 21 second remaining in the second. Rochester would put up 21 shots in the second compared to just six for Coulee Region.
The third period would become the Oskar Stahl show, as the forward from Sweden scored two goals for the Grizzlies to lead them to victory. His first came at 5:20 of the third as be beat Coulee Region goalie Devin Naidow on a partial breakaway. Grizzlies goalie Nick Bucklin would have to come up large in the third as the Chill would pepper him towards the end of the period. Stahl scored an empty net goal with eight seconds remaining to ice the game for Rochester. The win is Rochester’s sixth in a row.
With the win Friday, the Grizzlies now stand at 31-14-1 (63 points). However, Rochester is still in third place in the West Division as the North Iowa Bulls also won Friday. The Grizzlies still sit two points behind the Bulls and each team has one game remaining. Rochester still has a chance at second place but would need to win Saturday against Coulee Region and North Iowa would have to lose at home against Peoria in regulation. That would tie the teams at 65 points with Rochester owning the tiebreaker after winning the season series against North Iowa 4-2.
The Grizzlies are back home Saturday for the regular season finale. Saturday is Fan Appreciation Night at the Rec Center as the first 250 fans at the game receive a free Grizzlies team photo courtesy of Rochester Motor Cars. There will also be a jersey auction immediately following the game as fans can bid on all game-worn jerseys, with the exception to those with jersey sponsors.