ROCHESTER, Minn. – When the Austin Bruins ownership purchased the former Rochester Ice Hawks franchise during the offseason, a clear message was sent. After winning just 24 games in three years, the team with a new identity would also be held to a new standard, with new expectations.
Knocking off the North Iowa Bulls, one of the NA3HL’s longtime standard-bearers and a budding rival for the Rochester Grizzlies, likely was one of those expectations. Expectation became reality Friday night, as the Grizzlies scored a 3-1 win over North Iowa, doing what the Ice Hawks were not able to do in 22 tries as an NA3HL member club.
Rochester started the scoring at 13:27 of the period, as Richard Szabo picked up his third goal of the season, putting one on the top shelf to take a 1-0 Grizzlies lead to the locker room.
In the second period, a turnover by Grizzlies goalie Nick Bucklin led to Peter Verstegen‘s (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) third special-teams goal of the season, a shorthanded tally at 10:10 to tie the game at one.
Each team had a special teams opportunity in the first half of the stanza, with Seth Bacon’s head contact minor sending the Bulls on the man-advantage just three minutes in. Verstegen’s goal came 49 seconds after a Walter Brandt (Richfield, Minn./Edina Jr. Gold) penalty for slashing.
Rochester’s Nick Latvala was ejected with 1:12 left in the second period after a disagreement with referee Ian Carlson. Just 10 seconds later, though, the hosts got the upper hand on Szabo’s second goal, sending the hosts back into the locker room with another one-goal lead.
The teams went to four-on-four hockey with 5:28 remaining in the game, with Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) heading to the locker room on a checking-from-behind call. Rochester’s Seth Bacon landed a game misconduct penalty in the ensuing skirmish as well.
Just 11 seconds later, Szabo batted down a high pass from Matt DeRosa and swatted it past Evan Babekuhl (Orono, Minn./Orono H.S.), adding an insurance goal for a 3-1 lead. Grizzlies blueliner Colin Mehren picked up a hooking penalty with 2:36 remaining to put North Iowa on one final power play. The Bulls were not able to capitalize on that infraction, though, or score again before the final horn.
Babekuhl faced 50 shots in the game, turning aside 47 in taking the loss. Bucklin made 27 saves on 28 North Iowa shots, earning the win in his season debut. Bucklin finished last year in Rochester, going 2-9 in a season split between the Ice Hawks and Granite City Lumberjacks.
DeRosa finished with two assists, with one helper each going to Logan Olson and Vladislav Sorokin. The Bulls wrap up their season-opening five-game road swing at 3-2-0-0, while the Grizzlies won their third straight and moved to a 3-1-0-0 start to the year.
North Iowa opens its home season Saturday night, taking on the New Ulm Steel in its earliest home opener in franchise history. The opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the North Iowa Ice Arena. Live streaming coverage for all Bulls games is available on HockeyTV. Free audio streaming for select games, including Saturday’s home opener, is available on Mixlr.
Prior to the game, the Bulls will celebrate the start of the season with a tailgate party from 5 to 7 p.m. Levi Smith will be on hand to provide live music for the tailgate party, along with Brent Estlund and Matt Root. For advance tickets to Saturday’s game or any future North Iowa Bulls game, click here.
North Iowa 0 1 0 – 1
Rochester Grizzlies 1 1 1 – 3
1st Period-1, Rochester Grizzlies, Szabo 3 (DeRosa), 13:20. Penalties-Junker Nio (cross checking-minor), 9:36.
2nd Period-2, North Iowa, Verstegen 5 10:10 (SH). 3, Rochester Grizzlies, Szabo 4 (Sorokin), 18:58. Penalties-Bacon Roc (head contact-minor), 3:05; Brandt Nio (slashing-minor), 9:21; Latvala Roc (abuse of official-gm), 18:48.
3rd Period-4, Rochester Grizzlies, Szabo 5 (DeRosa, Olson), 14:43. Penalties-Escobar Nio (holding-minor), 9:24; Olson Roc (roughing-minor), 9:24; Fagerlee Nio (checking from behind-major), 14:32; Bacon Roc (roughing-double minor, offensive language), 14:32; Mehren Roc (hooking-minor), 17:24.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 7-8-13-28. Rochester Grizzlies 8-22-20-50.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 1; Rochester Grizzlies 0 / 2.
Goalies-North Iowa, Babekuhl 1-1-0-0 (50 shots-47 saves). Rochester Grizzlies, Bucklin 1-0-0-0 (28 shots-27 saves).
Linesmen-Daniel Van Loon, Alec Almquist.