ROCHESTER, Minn. – Nine and feeling fine for the Rochester Grizzlies. What looked like a game destined for overtime, Yotaro Nakadate played the hero for the Rochester Grizzlies. The rookie from Japan scored the game-winning goal with 1:30 left in the third, while Justin Wright added two goals and an assist as the Grizzlies beat the Peoria Mustangs 4-2. The win is the ninth in a row to start the season for the Grizzlies.
Friday night was the first meeting of the season between the two Central Division rivals since the 2019-20 season. The two teams were set to meet in the 2019-20 Fraser Cup Playoffs before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Neither team found the back of the net in the first period, despite power play chances for the Grizzlies. Rochester was unable to convert on both power play chances in the first period but also killed off one of its own. Both teams put up seven shots on net.
Wright scored his first of the evening at 6:35 of the second period after a great saucer pass from Cody Reagle. Wright was able to settle the puck down and beat Cole Walter to the glove side for his first of the game. Micah Gernander picked up the secondary assist.
The third period saw most of the action. Peoria finally broke through Shane Soderwall as Quinn Murphy finished off a nice passing play to score a power play goal, tying the game at 1-1. The tie would last less than three minutes until Wright teamed up with his linemates Reagle and Gernander to score again. Reagle settled down a bouncing puck before passing it over to Wright who beat Walter from the slot, giving Rochester a 2-1 lead. The Mustangs would not go away as Jaycob Bland, just over two minutes later, finished off a breakaway by beating Soderwall to the glove side and tying the game 2-2.
That would be all the Mustangs would get as Nakadate picked a perfect time to score his first career North American 3 Hockey League goal. Nakadate received a pass at the point from Wright and wristed a shot past Walter to give Rochester a 3-2 lead. Nakadate took advantage of a couple bodies in front of Walter, who looked to be blocked from seeing the shot. Hunter Wilmes added an empty net goal with eight seconds to go in the third period.
Rochester improves to 9-0-0 (18 points) and are one win away from matching a franchise record of 10 set back in the fall of the 2018-19 season, the team’s first as a franchise. The Grizzlies and Mustangs are set to face off again Saturday evening from the Rochester Rec Center with puck drop set for 7:05.