ROCHESTER, Minn. – Hunter Wilmes has been on a hot streak of late. The St. Peter, MN native had goals in back-to-back games coming into Friday’s meeting with the St. Louis Jr. Blues and added more to it. Wilmes scored twice and added an assist as the Grizzlies routed the Jr. Blues 8-3 to start the weekend series from the Rochester Recreation Center.
The game was only the third meeting between the two teams this season, as the previous two were in Missouri in early December. The two teams split those games.
Both teams traded chances to start the game, each getting odd-man rushes at times. The Grizzlies caught the first break when Porter Haney redirected in a Luke McKinch point shot, breaking the ice. Haney’s textbook redirect came at 5:46 of the first. The game seemed to a continue a back-and-forth pace with chances until Wilmes got his first of the night at 12:56 of the first, making it 2-0. He settled down a bouncing puck and beat Jr. Blues goalie William Oliver from the slot.
The game opened up in the second period and more penalties occurred, too. With Logan Olson in the box, the due of Matt DeRosa and Peyton Hart went to work on the penalty kill. Hart entered the St. Louis zone and passed to a cutting DeRosa, who got stopped the first time but knocked home his own rebound. DeRosa’s shorthanded goal was the 15th of the season for the Grizzlies and made it a 3-0 game just 2:24 in. Wilmes then returned the favor as he picked up an assist on a goal by Newman at 6:21 of the second, giving Rochester a 4-0 lead. The Jr. Blues called a timeout immediately after the goal and seemed to respond to Head Coach Chris Flaugher’s words. Valentin Tarasenko (brother of St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko), knocked home a rebound just 14 seconds after Newman’s goal to cut the lead to three goals.
The Grizzlies came back less than two minutes after Tarasenko’s goal to make it a 5-1 game as Joey Fodstad banked in a shot from behind the goal line off Oliver and in the net. That goal against ended the evening for Olliver as he was pulled in favor of Brett Tome. That was Fodstad’s 26th goal of the season. Joey Boccardi cashed in on another two-man advantage for the Jr. Blues with 2:01 left in the period. That was the second five-on-three the Jr. Blues had in the second period. Boccardi’s goal cut the lead to 5-2. Wilmes added his second of the night with just over a second left in the second period as he knocked home a great feed from Olson and converted on the power play. Olson killed time and made the back door pass to Wilmes. The power play goal marked the fourth straight game Rochester has scored a power play goal.
The third period calmed down a bit for the most part. The penalties let up and so did the goals, for the most part. Fodstad added his second of the game and 27th of the season at 12:51 of the third. Paul Hofbauer got in on the action, as well, making it 8-2 at the 13:48 mark. The Jr. Blues got a late goal from Van Kraemer.
Mathias Backstrom made some key saves in the contest as he went on to pick up the win, his 18th of the season. Backstrom stopped 27 of 30 shots he saw. The Grizzlies their home win streak to 14 games, still second best current and overall in the entire league. They have not lost a home game since Nov. 9 in overtime against Alexandria. Their record is now 35-8-1-1, good for 72 points.
The two teams will meet up Saturday evening again from the Rochester Recreation Center. Saturday’s game is another Saturday Night Showdown sponsored by Sterling State Insurance Agency and also Fan Appreciation Night. Puck drop is set for 7 PM. There is a post game jersey auction, where all home jerseys will be auctioned off. Fans who win jerseys can pick them up at the end of the 2019-20 season.