A bounce here, a break there is all that has separated the Rochester Grizzlies and the Peoria Mustangs this season.
The Mustangs got the bounce, and the break, on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the best-of-3 North American 3 Hockey League Central Division finals.
The Mustangs' 2-1 overtime victory in Peoria puts the Grizzlies in win-or-go home mode as the series shifts to Rochester for Friday's 7:05 p.m. Game 2, and, if needed, a Game 3 on Saturday. That game is also scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. start.
The Grizzlies have been all but unbeatable this season against every team in their division aside from the Mustangs. The teams have now met nine times, with Peoria holding a slight 5-4 advantage. The teams split four games at the Rec Center during the regular season.
In Wednesday's Game 1, Peoria outshot the Grizzlies significantly, 30-17, but Grizzlies goalie Shane Soderwall was big, stopping 28 shots.
Rochester took a 1-0 lead midway through the second period when veteran forward Payton Hart scored his fourth goal of the postseason, with assists from Joey Fodstad and Joey Malugani.
The Mustangs responded seven minutes later, when Quinton Murphy's first postseason goal tied the score and forced OT.
Tony Campise's goal just 2:16 into the extra period won it for Peoria, which received 16 saves from Rochester Century grad Cole Walter.
MUSTANGS 2, GRIZZLIES 1, OT
First period — no scoring. Second period — 1. ROC, Payton Hart 4 (Joey Fodstad 2, Joey Malugani 2) 9:57. 2. PEO, Quinton Murphy 1 (Connor Bennett 1, Jack Craycroft 1) 17:07. Third period — no scoring. Overtime — 3. PEO, Tony Campise 2 (Ethan Chesney 3) 2:16.
Shots on goal — ROC 6-9-2-0—17, PEO 8-12-9-1—30. Goalies — ROC, Shane Soderwall (L, 2-1; 28 saves-30 shots); PEO, Cole Walter (W, 3-0; 16 saves-17 shots). Power-play opportunities — ROC 0-for-3, PEO 0-for-1. Penalties — ROC, 1-2 minutes; PEO, 3-6 minutes.