Grizzlies season comes to stunning end
The Rochester Grizzlies came up short of a third consecutive NA3HL Central Division postseason championship, getting swept in the division finals by the Oregon (Wis.) Tradesmen.
OREGON, Wis. — With their season on the line, the Rochester Grizzlies put up a strong fight for 30 minutes on Saturday.
Then, the Oregon Tradesmen snowball began rolling downhill and it smothered the Grizzlies quickly, ending their season in stunning fashion.
The Tradesmen scored three times in a span of 3 minutes, 22 seconds late in the second period to take control of Game 2 of the best-of-3 North American 3 Hockey League Central Division Finals. Those three goals were only the start of the Tradesmen onslaught. They kept their foot on the gas to secure their first-ever trip to the Fraser Cup championship tournament by adding four third-period goals in a 7-0 win against the Grizzlies at Oregon Ice Arena.
Oregon swept the Division Finals series 2-0 — after winning Game 1 4-1 on Friday in Rochester — knocking the regular-season division champion Grizzlies out of the playoffs and denying them a chance to defend their Fraser Cup championship.
Saturday's game was scoreless for more than 30 minutes, as both goalies stopped all 12 shots they faced in the opening period.
Then, 12:36 into the second, Marcus Mack got a stride past a Grizzlies defender and converted a nice feed from Christian Tavare in-tight on Grizzlies goalie Tate Cothern to make it 1-0. The Grizzlies were never able to recover and Mack's tally held up as the game-winning goal.
Connor Byrne scored 1:51 later to make it 2-0, then Tavare scored an unassisted goal just 1:31 after that to give Oregon a 3-0 lead after two.
The Grizzlies didn't push back in the third, getting outshot 19-3 over the final 20 minutes and allowing four goals. John Ratajczyk scored 2:40 into the third to make it 4-0. Sam Knight added a goal at the 13:40 mark, chasing Grizzlies starting goalie Tate Cothern. Cooper Routheau and Carter Watters scored goals in the final three minutes to cap the scoring.
Oregon (35-10-6 overall, 4-0 postseason), which finished three points behind the Grizzlies in the regular-season standings, is headed to the Fraser Cup next week in suburban St. Louis.
Rochester finishes its season 35-12-5 overall. Saturday's loss marks the first time the Grizzlies have lost a postseason series since their inaugural season, 2018-19.
Rochester will say goodbye to at least nine players, whose junior hockey eligibility expired with Saturday's loss: goalie Chris Brown; defensemen Tyler Huffer, Logan Kroyman and Per Waage; and forwards Max Clark, Austin Meers, Ben Tschida, Ben Oakland and Luke Morrisettte.
Clark, Oakland, Meers, Morrisette, Waage and Kroyman helped the Grizzlies win the Fraser Cup last spring.