MASON CITY, Iowa – The phrase “bear down” means to put pressure on someone or something. Chicago Bears fans have used the phrase for years. The University of Arizona has even trademarked it.
The Rochester Grizzlies appear to have embraced the “Bear Down” concept as well, scoring three goals in the first 14:31 of Friday’s 6-3 win over the North Iowa Bulls, and sliding the Bulls into third place in a crowded NA3HL West Division race. The win for the Grizzlies ended a 10-game North Iowa winning streak, and a 15-game home regular-season win streak.
The Grizzlies got started early, with Lucas Newman carrying the puck through heavy traffic in North Iowa’s zone and beating a defensive change along the way. Newman’s low snap from the right side beat Connor Poczos (Austin, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) to put the visitors up 1-0 just 3:50 into the game.
North Iowa had a quick answer, with Joey Petronack (White Bear Lake, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) bouncing a stretch pass ahead to Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) for a breakaway goal just 91 seconds later.
Rochester had an answer to the Bulls’ answer, on Seth Bacon’s toss from the left point. Nic Leisen got just enough of the puck to redirect it past Poczos at 6:39 of the period for a 2-1 lead. The Grizzlies added an insurance tally with 5:29 to go in the period, as Vladislav Sorokin batted in a rebound for a 3-1 lead. That spelled the end of Poczos’s night, with Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./Orono H.S.) jumping in after just seven Rochester scoring chances.
It only took one more North Iowa scoring chance for the Bulls to respond, however – a shot block and a toss ahead to Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) started a 4-on-1 rush, and Studioso finished the job himself on a shot from the right circle with 5:05 to go before the intermission.
The scoring slowed down somewhat after that early flurry, but a head contact major against Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) opened the door for Rochester’s response. With Verstegen off the ice, Bacon took advantage himself, knuckling one through from the blue line with 9:30 remaining in the second period.
With the lead at 4-2, Brock Hildenbrand took the Bulls by the horns in the third period, adding himself to the score sheet on another Grizzlies power play, scoring off of a throw from the right point at the halfway mark of the stanza.
Matt Rozman (Edina, Minn./Edina Jr. Gold) wasn’t about to let the game get away without saying his piece, carrying the puck into the Rochester zone on a 2-on-1 and dragging the puck away from a sliding blocker to clear before ripping it home to make it 5-3 with 2:15 left.
With Babekuhl out of the net in the final minute, the Grizzlies got one shot at the empty net blocked, and another tight-angle try missed wide seconds after. North Iowa’s clearing attempt went right to Hildenbrand, however, and he hit the back of the empty cage with 1:02 to go, and the Grizzlies sealed their second win in as many games.
The final goal from Rozman shifted the loss onto Babekuhl, who stopped 24 of the 27 shots against him and fell to 4-4-0-0 on the season. Nick Bucklin was stellar in the win for Rochester, stopping 27 of 30 North Iowa chances and picking up his 10th win in 11 decisions.
Verstegen’s 10-game point streak ended following his early exit, but Studioso’s continues, sitting at 13 games heading into Saturday. Dahlseide’s early goal kept him rolling as well, with his point streak extending to a ninth game. Newman finished with a goal and three assists for the Grizzlies, with Sorokin coming up close behind at a goal and two helpers.
The Bulls and Rochester return to the North Iowa ice Saturday night, as Todd Sanden’s team continues its quest for its first win in the new-look rivalry. The opening puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. in Mason City with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr.
Saturday night’s contest is also the Bulls’ Teddy Bear Toss game – fans will receive a $2 discount on a game ticket at the door with a stuffed toy, to be thrown on the ice after the Bulls score their first goal. All toys will be donated to Toys For Tots. For advance tickets to Saturday’s game or any future North Iowa Bulls home game, click here.
Rochester 3 1 2 – 6
North Iowa 2 0 1 – 3
1st Period-1, Rochester, Newman 6 (Hart, Sorokin), 3:53. 2, North Iowa, Dahlseide 12 (Petronack, Stewart), 5:21. 3, Rochester, Leisen 2 (Bacon, Szabo), 6:39. 4, Rochester, Sorokin 19 (Haney, Fodstad), 14:31. 5, North Iowa, Studioso 12 (McDermott, Blackowiak), 14:55. Penalties-Hart Roc (slashing-minor), 10:02; Verstegen Nio (elbowing-minor), 16:47.
2nd Period-6, Rochester, Bacon 8 (Leisen, Newman), 10:30 (PP). Penalties-Verstegen Nio (head contact-major, head contact-gm), 8:02; Bacon Roc (boarding-minor), 19:39.
3rd Period-7, Rochester, Hildenbrand 3 (Newman, Potach), 9:59 (PP). 8, North Iowa, Rozman 6 (Bowlin), 17:45. 9, Rochester, Hildenbrand 4 (Sorokin, Newman), 18:58. Penalties-Postula Roc (slashing-minor), 2:29; Bogach Nio (tripping-minor), 8:40; Sorokin Roc (unsportsmanlike conduct – 10 minute), 18:58.
Shots on Goal-Rochester 10-9-15-34. North Iowa 14-10-6-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Rochester 2 / 3; North Iowa 0 / 3.
Goalies-Rochester, Bucklin 10-1-0-0 (30 shots-27 saves). North Iowa, Poczos 6-0-0-0 (7 shots-4 saves); Babekuhl 4-4-0-0 (27 shots-24 saves).
Linesmen-Matt Held, Aaron Mostrom.