4 things to know about the Rochester Grizzlies-Oregon Tradesmen division finals matchup

The Rochester Grizzlies are two wins away from a third straight trip to the NA3HL Fraser Cup national championship tournament. To do so, they'll have to get past the rival Oregon (Wis.) Tradesmen.

Rochester Grizzlies players celebrate with goalie Tate Cothern (30) after a 7-1 win against the St. Louis Jr. Blues on Saturday, March 5, 2023, at the Rochester Recreation Center. The win gave the Grizzlies their fourth consecutive NA3HL Central Division regular season championship.
Jason Feldman / Post Bulletin

The stat sheet says Tyler Fromolz is a middle-of-the-pack goalie in the North American 3 Hockey League.

The stat sheet wasn’t on the ice back on Nov. 11, though, when Fromolz stopped 34 shots to carry his Oregon (Wis.) Tradesmen team to a victory against NA3HL Central Division rival Rochester Grizzlies.

The stat sheet didn’t help on Feb. 24, either, when Fromolz made 41 saves to help Oregon beat the Grizzlies for the fourth time this season.

So, while the Grizzlies split their season series against the Tradesmen, they are well aware of that Fromolz — who played two games for the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League this season — has the ability to change the course of a game.

Fromolz is expected to be in goal for the Tradesmen tonight in Game 1 of the NA3HL Central Division Finals, a best 2-out-of-3 series that begins at 7:05 p.m. at the Rochester Recreation Center. Game 2 is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Oregon, a suburb of Madison. Game 3, if needed, will be back at the Rec Center at 5:05 p.m. Sunday.


The series winner advances to the Fraser Cup championship tournament, the six-team tournament that crowns the league’s champion, next week in suburban St. Louis

Fromolz was 17-6-3 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in the regular season.

“He doesn’t give you a lot to shoot at,” Grizzlies head coach Chris Ratzloff said. “He’s good with his hands, so we have to make sure we keep the puck low and make him play it with his legs, then hopefully we’re ready for rebounds. Just keep the puck in play.”

Tate Cothern

The Grizzlies will counter with their own outstanding goalie, rookie Tate Cothern, a Rochester Mayo graduate. Cothern came on strong in the second half of the regular season to seize the Grizzlies’ No. 1 goalie job. He went 17-3-1 with a 1.70 GAA (tied for second-best in the NA3HL) and .927 save percentage in the regular season.

The Grizzlies played Oregon four times prior to Thanksgiving and went 1-3-0 in those games. Cothern didn’t play in any of them. He did play in all four games between the teams in February, posting a 3-0-1 record.

“The biggest difference between the games early in the season and those (in February) was we didn’t make as many mistakes,” Ratzloff said, “and when we did, Tate was big for us.”

Here are three other things to watch in this weekend’s Central Division Finals:

Slowing their roll

If Oregon has its way, the series will be a high-scoring one. The Tradesmen like to get up and down the ice quickly and push the pace, which is shown in their 224 goals scored (4.77 per game) in the regular season, the most in the division by far (Rochester was second, with 191).


The Grizzlies have done a much better job of slowing Oregon’s high-powered offense.

In the first four meetings between the teams this season, Oregon averaged 4.75 goals per game.

In the last four meetings, the Grizzlies allowed two fewer goals per game, 2.75.

“I don’t expect this series to be as physical” as last weekend, Ratzloff said, referring to Rochester’s three-game series against the Peoria Mustangs. “(Oregon) likes offense. They want to run and gun; they’ll sell out at times for an offensive rush. We’ll need to be good defensively, with forwards and defensemen getting back. And we’ll need to counter quickly.”

Oregon’s aggressiveness can also work against it, leaving it vulnerable defensively. In last month’s games, Rochester often took advantage of its own odd-man rushes, creating quality chances off the rush.

Rest vs. home ice

The Grizzlies were pushed to three games by Peoria in last weekend’s division semifinals, the series going from Rochester to Peoria and back to Rochester in approximately 48 hours.

Oregon, on the other hand, swept rival Milwaukee in two games, a series that was over by late Friday night.

That means the Tradesmen have had two full days more to rest and prepare for the division finals.


On the flip side, the Grizzlies have home-ice advantage, which no team has been able to solve in the franchise’s five-year history. Rochester is 10-0 all-time at home in division playoff games, and just 1-5 on the road.

“I think the bigger thing for us is having home ice,” Ratzloff said. “Obviously, it would have been good for us to have last Sunday off to rest, but we got the rest we needed this week. We kept practices short, trying to keep the guys fresh and crisp and make sure they’re tuned in.”

Another postseason go-’round

This weekend’s series will mark a third consecutive year that the Grizzlies and Tradesmen have met in the postseason.

Rochester had home-ice advantage in both of its previous playoff meetings against Oregon. The Grizzlies went a combined 4-0 at home in those series, and 0-1 on the road.

They beat the Tradesmen 2-1 in the Central Division Finals last year, after sweeping a two-game series against the Tradesmen in the 2021 division semifinals (both of those games were played in Rochester).

Rochester has never allowed Oregon more than two goals in any playoff game between the teams in Rochester. The Grizzlies won 9-1 and 5-2 in the 2021 division semifinals. Last year, Rochester won the division finals opener 5-1 at home, then fell 3-2 in Game 2 at Oregon before winning the decisive Game 3 6-1 at home.

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or
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