Junior hockey: Grizzlies lock up playoff spot, Bruins take down first-place Wings
EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The score wasn’t as important to the Rochester Grizzlies as what it represented.
Rochester’s 13-0 victory against an overmatched Evansville Jr. Thunderbolts team allowed the Grizzlies to hit a couple of milestones in their first season as a North American 3 Hockey League franchise — and it put them in position to possibly attain another milestone.
The victory is the 30th of the season for Rochester, a major feat for a first-year program, considering it plays in the NA3HL’s toughest division.
Rochester also locked up a playoff spot with the win and is locked in to face league power North Iowa in a best-of-3 West Division first-round series March 14-17.
The one question that remains heading into the final week of the regular season is, which team will have home-ice advantage in that series. The Grizzlies (30-14-1) have 61 points, two points behind the Bulls (30-12-3, 63 points).
Rochester will likely need to sweep Coulee Region on Friday (at La Crosse) and Saturday (at the Rochester Recreation Center, 7:05 p.m.) to have a shot at the No. 2 seed in the division.
Against Evansville, 15 of 18 skaters dressed for Rochester recorded at least one point, and goalie Liam Kelly earned an eight-save shutout as the Grizzlies outshot the Jr. Thunderbolts 78-8.
Joey Fodstad recorded his second hat trick of the season and added an assist, for a four-point night.
Matt DeRosa also had four points, with two goals and two assists.
GRIZZLIES 13, THUNDERBOLTS 0
Rochester 5 3 4 — 13
Evansville 0 0 0 — 0
Rochester: Kory Potach 1 goal; Seth Bacon 1 goal, 2 assists; Colin Mehren 2 assists; Nick Latvala 2 assists; Porter Haney 1 goal, 1 assist; Joey Fodstad 3 goals, 1 assist; Matt DeRosa 2 goals, 2 assists; Josh Hoffman 1 goal; Hunter Hall 1 goal, 1 assist; Nic Leisen 2 assists; Lukas Jenkins 1 assist; Brock Hildenbrand 1 assist; Peyton Hart 1 goal, 1 assist; Bryar Flanders 1 assist; Oskar Stahl 1 goal, 2 assists. Goalie: Liam Kelly 8 saves (8 shots).
Evansville: Goalies: Stephen Friedland 28 saves (35 shots), Noah Brandau 38 saves (43 shots).
BRUINS KNOCK OFF WINGS
AUSTIN — Ben Almquist scored a pair of power-play goals, including the game winner late in the third period, to lift the Austin Bruins to a 4-2 victory against North American Hockey League rival Aberdeen on Saturday at Riverside Arena.
The Bruins improved to 27-16-6 while handing the Wings just their ninth loss of the season. Aberdeen drops to 37-9-3, but still has a massive 16-point lead over Minot for first place in the division. Austin is now just one point back of Minot for second place.
Dante Sheriff and Reggie Millette also scored for Austin, which led 1-0 after one period and 3-1 after two.
Kyle McClellan made 25 saves as Austin outshot Aberdeen 29-27.
The Bruins are back in action Friday at home against Brookings.
BRUINS 4, WINGS 2
Aberdeen 0 1 1 — 2
Austin 1 2 1 — 4
Aberdeen: John Sladic 1 goal; Stepan Pokorny 1 goal; Brad Belisle 1 assist; Dalton Weigel 1 assist. Goalie: Matt Vernon 25 saves (29 shots).
Austin: Ben Almquist 2 goals, 1 assist; Dante Sheriff 1 goal; Reggie Millette 1 goal; Kyle Herbster 1 assist; Josef Mysak 1 assist; Garrett Dahm 1 assist; Dante Zapata 1 assist; Hugh Larkin 1 assist; Ian Mageau 1 assist; Lane Krenzen 1 assist. Goalie: Kyle McClellan 25 saves 927 shots).