The Rochester Grizzlies are nearing the halfway point of the North American 3 Hockey League season, and they're right where they want to be.
The Grizzlies earned a 2-1 victory against Central Division rival Peoria on Saturday at the Rochester Recreation Center, giving them a sweep of a two-game weekend series and putting them into a tie for first place in the division with the St. Louis Jr. Blues.
And up next on the schedule for Rochester: A two-game series at St. Louis on Saturday and Sunday — the Grizzlies' only trip this season to St. Louis. Though they have 27 regular-season games remaining, Rochester has put itself in position to control its own playoff fate in the second half of the season.
The Grizzlies (15-4-1 overall) are tied atop the division with St. Louis with 31 points. Rochester, however, has played four less games than the Jr. Blues (15-8-1) and it has the opportunity to put a little distance between itself and the Blues next weekend.
The Grizzlies had to earn a pair of hard-fought victories against Peoria (9-11-1), though.
Mathias Backstrom was sharp in goal again Saturday, stopping 26 of the 27 shots he faced, after stopping all 17 shots he saw in a 2-0 victory on Friday.
Peoria scored first Saturday, just 4:53 into the game, but Lourdes graduate Lucas Newman scored 3:13 into the second period to tie the score and former Minnesota River Bulldogs star Hunter Wilmes scored the game winner at 14:35 of the second, an unassisted short-handed goal.
Backstrom took care of the rest, stopping 20 shots over the final two periods.
Former Rochester Century goalie Cole Walter was in net for the Rivermen, and he kept them in the game, making 31 saves on 33 shots.
GRIZZLIES 2, RIVERMEN 1
Peoria 1 0 0 — 1
Rochester 0 2 0 — 2
Peoria: Austin Keil 1 goal; Dillan Bentley 1 assist; Ryan Payne 1 assist. Goalie: Cole Walter 31 saves (33 shots).
Rochester: Lucas Newman 1 goal; Hunter Wilmes 1 goal; Nic Leisen 1 assist; Jesper Hofling 1 assist. Goalie: Mathias Backstrom 26 saves (27 shots).