ROCHESTER, Minn. – Richard Szabo is fairly new to the NA3HL, playing in just his second game. One wouldn’t be able to tell he’s a rookie to this league after his performance Friday, as he scored all three goals in a 3-1 Grizzlies win over the North Iowa Bulls.
This was a good test for Rochester (3-1-0-0) as the Bulls (3-2-0-0) were in first place in the West Division entering the weekend.
“We just wanted to play our game, get to our structure and work hard, set the tone. We know what they’re all about and their rotation. We just wanted to get to our game,” Grizzlies Head Coach Casey Mignone said.
The game started off with a different pace than what fans and players might have been used to, especially after last weekend against Evansville. It was a bit of a feeling out process between the Bulls and Grizzlies, as both teams only had one shot on goal through the first few minutes of the game.
Szabo would get open the scoring at the 13:20 mark of the third period, getting his third goal of this young season. It was a bit of a broken play, as Szabo lost the puck in his feet before regaining possession and roofing one on goaltender Evan Babekuhl.
“I lost my mouth guard so I looked down on the ice and I’m like ‘yeah I got a puck so I’m going to score. So I just shot it,'” Szabo said.
Play would start to open up in the second period, with both teams generating chances. The Grizzlies would get on the power play at the 9:21 mark of the second. However, it would be North Iowa capitalizing despite being a man down. Peter Verstegen would take advantage of a turnover by Grizzlies goalie Nick Bucklin and fired it into the yawning cage.
Rochester would answer at the 18:58 mark of the second as Szabo would score his second of the night, with the assist to Vladislav Sorokin. This came 10 seconds after Grizzlies defenseman Nick Latvala was given a game misconduct for abuse of officials.
Play would go back-and-forth in the third period, with both teams getting good chances until Szabo scored a highlight real goal.
Matt DeRosa would take the puck in the North Iowa zone and was looking to feed the puck to the left wing side towards Szabo. DeRosas went for a saucer pass, but the puck went a little higher on Szabo. Szabo would then bat the puck out of mid-air, at about waist level, and knock it home for his third goal of the evening.
“It was kind of surprising to me, but I practiced that in the morning today with Vlad (Sorokin) so it kind of helped me,” Szabo said.
The line of Szabo, Sorokin and DeRosa would combine for six points tonight as the line chemistry continued to stand out.
“Richard and I are sharing a room right now, sharing space. We’re playing PS4 together. We’re kind of gelling at home. It’s a great combination, having him at my house,” DeRosa said.
The Grizzlies would go on to outshoot North Iowas 50-28 in the game, as Bucklin would have a strong first outing for the Grizzlies.
“My defense did a really good job of clearing bodies in front of the net…all together everybody played really well, let me see the puck,” Bucklin said.
Rochester is back home Saturday night taking on the Willmar War Hawks at 7:05. Saturday is the first of three straight games against Willmar for the Grizzlies.