ROCHESTER, Minn. – With just five weeks left in the North American Tier 3 Hockey League regular season, now is the time for teams to get hot and make their move. The Rochester Grizzlies have steadily built their lead in the NA3HL’s Central Division with five straight wins entering Saturday night’s game against North Iowa, and a big night of offense helped them add to it.
The Grizzlies out-shot the Bulls 34-22, including a 15-4 margin in the opening period, on the way to a 3-1 victory at the Rochester Recreation Center, pushing their lead over the second-place St. Louis Jr. Blues to 10 points, with two additional games in hand. North Iowa slid back into second place in the West, percentage points behind Granite City.
A takeaway in the North Iowa corner allowed Nic Leisen to turn around and toss one into the back of the net just past the 15-minute mark of the first period, giving the Grizzlies a 1-0 lead heading to the intermission.
Rochester added to its lead – and to its advantage in the shooting column – with two more goals in the second period. On a 2-on-1 rush up the right wing, Peyton Hart found Matt DeRosa on the doorstep for a quick one-timer at the 4:42 mark, and with just 2.7 seconds remaining, Andrejs Bogdanovs put away Devin Hays’s toss toward the North Iowa net on a redirect, giving the Grizzlies a 3-0 lead with a period to go.
The Bulls were ready to respond right out of the gate – Mathias Backstrom turned aside Sean Sullivan’s (Middleton, Wis./Madison Capitols 18U) initial shot just 15 seconds out of the intermission, but Lucas Wahlin (Woodbury, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) was there to bat the rebound home and put the Bulls back within two.
North Iowa killed off a pivotal two-man advantage late in the final period, and had its own 5-on-3 chance with 1:44 to go and goaltender Joe Daninger (Blaine, Minn./Blaine H.S.) on the bench. However, Rochester’s defense stood firm and locked down the win.
“The boys just didn’t get enough shots on net,” said Sullivan. “We need to work harder to get pucks into the [offensive] zone, get pucks to the net and create more chances for ourselves. We’re definitely tired, but we’re off next weekend, so hopefully this week in practice, we get after it and in a couple of weeks, we’ll pull out another W.”
Daninger’s record fell to 7-2-0-0 with the loss, making 31 saves. Four weeks after seeing a lengthy winning streak come to an end against the Bulls, Backstrom pushed his current winning streak to three games, making 21 saves of his own. Each team finished 0-for-5 on the power play.
The Bulls fall to 30-7-2-0 with the loss, and have next weekend off before hosting St. Louis on February 14 and 15. Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena. Live streaming coverage of both games is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr.
Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey is always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. To purchase advance tickets to upcoming Bulls home games, call 641-423-4625 or click here.
North Iowa 0 0 1 – 1
Rochester 1 2 0 – 3
1st Period-1, Rochester, Leisen 9 15:05. Penalties-Eha Nio (roughing-minor), 17:12.
2nd Period-2, Rochester, DeRosa 15 (Hart, Heitkamp), 4:42. 3, Rochester, Bogdanovs 3 (Haney, Hays), 19:58. Penalties-DeRosa Roc (boarding-minor), 1:31; Daly Nio (holding-minor), 10:38; Shultz Roc (roughing-minor), 10:38; Heitkamp Roc (roughing-minor), 11:45; Fagerlee Nio (roughing-minor), 14:30; Dahlseide Nio (roughing-minor), 17:56; Eha Nio (roughing-minor, continuing altercation-10 misc), 17:56; Hofbauer Roc (roughing-minor, continuing altercation-10 misc), 17:56; Shultz Roc (roughing-minor), 17:56; Wagner Nio (roughing-minor, cross checking-minor), 19:16; Heitkamp Roc (roughing-minor), 19:16; Parker Roc (holding-minor), 19:27.
3rd Period-4, North Iowa, Wahlin 24 (Stewart, Dahlseide), 0:15. Penalties-Dahlseide Nio (checking from behind-10 misc, checking from behind-10 misc), 13:22; Isogai Nio (hooking-minor), 14:09; Wilmes Roc (slashing-minor), 16:46; Shultz Roc (holding-minor), 18:16.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 4-6-12-22. Rochester 15-11-8-34.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 0; Rochester 0 / 0.
Goalies-North Iowa, Daninger 8-2-0-0 (34 shots-31 saves). Rochester, Backstrom 14-3-0-0 (22 shots-21 saves).
Linesmen-Dylan Krikke, Travis Neubeck.