OREGON, Wis. — The Rochester Grizzlies' coaching staff weren't sure if the team would have the same type of depth to start this season as it had a year ago.
While that may be an unfair comparison — last year's team was loaded with veterans, including the North American 3 Hockey League's MVP (Payton Hart) and Goaltender of the Year (Shane Soderwall) — the new version of the Grizzlies showed over the weekend that it has some depth, too.
Rochester opened its 2021-22 season with a pair of convincing victories against the Oregon Tradesmen, winning 5-1 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday at the Oregon Ice Arena.
Some of the new faces who the Grizzlies will count on this year got the season off to a strong start. Hastings native Kyle Bauer scored two goals Friday, including the first of the season for Rochester, an unassisted goal 6:52 into the game. Just 73 seconds later, Wayzata native Max Breon scored his first goal as a Grizzly, a goal that held up as the game winner.
Bauer and Kolton Kane added goals just 28 seconds apart in the first three minutes of the second period, then veteran Cole Gibson capped the scoring with his first of the season, just 30 seconds into the third.
Owatonna's Zach Wiese — who went 13-3-0 as the Grizzlies' No. 2 goalie a year ago — earned the win in goal, stopping 15 of the 16 shots he faced. Rochester outshot the Tradesmen 36-16 in the game.
With rookie Kaleb Bents in goal Saturday, the Grizzlies twice rallied from a goal down to eventually pull away for a 5-2 win. Bents was tested more often than Wiese was, as he faced 34 shots and stopped 32 of them, as Rochester outshot Oregon 43-34.
Bauer scored his third goal of the season 6:50 into Saturday's game, a goal that came in between two Tradesmen goals in the first 10:50 of the opening period. That was all the scoring Oregon could muster, though, as Bents made 23 of his 32 saves over the final two periods.
Ian Vannelli's first goal of the year tied the score 2-2 at the 14:17 mark of the first, then veteran defenseman Per Waage put the Grizzlies up for good, scoring the game winner with 58 seconds to go in the first.
Rookie defenseman Jake Laurila, a skilled offensive defenseman, notched his first goal as a Grizzly in the second period and newcomer Austin Meers scored his first for the Grizzlies in the third.
Road series rescheduled
The Grizzlies are idle until Monday, Sept. 27, when they play at the Milwaukee Power at 7 p.m.
Rochester was initially scheduled to play a two-game series at Milwaukee this coming weekend, but with the massive Ryder Cup pro golf event being held this week at Whistling Straits in nearby Kohler, Wis., the series was moved due to a lack of available hotel rooms.
The first game of that series will now be played on Sept 27, and the second rescheduled game was moved to Wedensday, Dec. 1.