Grizzlies blow out St. Louis, back in driver's seat for Central Division championship
Eleven players scored for the Rochester Grizzlies Friday night as they put themselves in position to win the NA3HL Central Division championship for a fourth consecutive season.
ROCHESTER — The Rochester Grizzlies entered Friday's game against St. Louis unable to control their own destiny.
So the Grizzlies controlled what they could — their own peformance. They also controlled the North American 3 Hockey League Central Division game from start to finish at the Rochester Recreation Center.
Eleven Grizzlies scored goals and 16 players had at least one point as Rochester blew out the Jr. Blues 11-2.
That win, coupled with the Oregon (Wis.) Tradesmen's 9-4 loss against the Milwaukee Power, returned the power in the Central Division to the Grizzlies.
They now do control their fate.
With a win — or just getting to overtime — in Saturday's regular-season finale against St. Louis, the Grizzlies will win a fourth consecutive division championship and lock up home-ice advantage throughout the first two rounds of the NA3HL playoffs.
Rochester (32-9-5, 69 points) enters Saturday with a two-point lead over Oregon (31-10-5, 67 points) in the division. The Grizzlies and Jr. Blues meet at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Rec Center; Oregon and Milwaukee face off at 7:30 p.m. in Milwaukee.
Rochester, the defending NA3HL national champion, hopes to be celebrating another division championship before the Oregon-Milwaukee game is over.
If the Grizzlies get another performance Saturday like they had Friday, they'll put another championship banner on order.
Luke Morrisette — who had three total goals in Rochester's shootout win and regulation win at Oregon last weekend — scored 1:45 into Friday's game, giving the Grizzlies the lead for good. Spencer Klotz scored his 20th goal of the season late in the first period, extending Rochester's lead to 2-0 after one period.
The Grizzlies broke it open in the second, scoring six goals — by Ty Petzke, Ben Oakland, Gavin Mears, Grant Dardis, Ben Tschida and Connor Stoffel — in a 10-minute, 13-second stretch, to lead 8-0 after two.
Rochester Century grad Matt Haun, Lakeville native Luke Jech, and veteran Max Clark (short-handed) scored in the third period to ensure St. Louis (8-38-0) would have no hopes of a comeback.
The Grizzlies outshot the Jr. Blues 58-19 in the game; Grizzlies goalie Tate Cothern made 17 saves to earn the victory.
NOTES: Veteran forward Austin Meers became the fifth player in the franchise's five-year history to reach the 100 games played milestone. A native of suburban St. Louis, Meers is the only Grizzlies player to play in all 46 games so far this season. He played in 45 regular-season games last year, and all nine postseason games. Meers has 17 goals and 35 points this season. He has 30 goals and 39 assists in his two-year career. ... Forward Luke Sawicky made his return to the Grizzlies lineup Friday. The Osseo native re-joined the team after his high school season came to a close. Sawicky, who played in 16 games for the Grizzlies prior to the high school season, had an assist in Friday's game and now has 17 points in 17 games as a junior hockey rookie. ... Cothern was backed up Friday by Rochester John Marshall goalie Cody Vlasaty, who was making his junior hockey debut after an excellent season for the Rockets in which he went 13-10-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. ... Rochester Lourdes graduate Matthew Mahoney assisted on the Jr. Blues' first goal, his fourth assist and 15th point of the season.
BOX SCORE: Rochester Grizzlies 11, St. Louis Jr. Blues 2
Most Games by Grizzlies
On Friday, Austin Meers recently became the fifth player in Rochester Grizzlies history to play 100 games for the franchise. Here’s a look at the players with the most games played in franchise history:
* — active