The Rochester Grizzlies won 32 games in their inaugural season. They made the North American 3 Hockey League playoffs and moved a half-dozen players up the hockey ladder to colleges or other junior leagues.
As important, the Grizzlies brought fans back to junior hockey in Rochester.
Casey Mignone was a big factor in that successful season.
And that success has paid off for the first head coach in Grizzlies’ franchise history. Now he’s moving up the ladder, too.
Mignone resigned as the Grizzlies head coach late last week to accept an assistant coaching job with the St. Cloud Blizzard of the North American Hockey League. The news was made official on Tuesday.
“I feel very connected to Rochester, as far as how much work we did, the difference in where the program was from a year ago to now,” he said. “It’s about as good as anyone could’ve expected it to be.”
The Grizzlies went 32-17-1 overall under Mignone, and finished third in the NA3HL West Division. Rochester fell 2-1 to league power North Iowa in a best-of-3 first-round playoff series.
“Some of the kids we tendered this year are coming from high-end programs like Eden Prairie,” Mignone said. “A year ago, that possibility wasn’t even on our radar. The foundation has been built and it’s deeply rooted and strong and I think – I know – it’ll continue to get better.”
Mignone said he is looking forward to the challenge of coaching at a higher level.
“Just the caliber of play is incredibly high,” he said. “There are a lot of Division I prospects. It’s a level I’ve wanted to be at and finally I’ll get a chance to help kids get to that ultimate goal of playing Division I or high-level Division III hockey. The NA provides such a great opportunity for kids.”
RATZLOFF TO TAKE OVER
The Grizzlies didn’t have to look far to find Mignone’s replacement.
Former Rochester John Marshall boys hockey assistant coach and Rochester Lourdes girls hockey assistant Chris Ratzloff has been tabbed as the second head coach in franchise history. Ratzloff served as an assistant at JM – his alma mater – before spending the past two seasons at Lourdes.
“(Mignone) and I have talked for a few months about me coming on with (the Grizzlies), as a scout,” Ratzloff said. “Then he got his opportunity and this (fell into place).”
After graduating from JM, Ratzloff played two years in the USHL (one with the Rochester Mustangs, one with Des Moines), then played college hockey at Wisconsin-River Falls. He said he’s looking forward to getting back into junior hockey.
“I love skill development and Casey and (assistant coach) Mike (Aikens) have done a great job of bringing in kids who have the potential to get to the NAHL,” Ratzloff said. “And I’m really looking forward to working with (Aikens), too.”
Ratzloff’s son Brandon is a JM grad, who recently wrapped up an outstanding junior hockey career. He had 28 goals and 89 points in his final season with the Coulee Region Chill of the NA3HL. He’ll begin his college career this fall at Augsburg.
Chris Ratzloff’s daughter Ali was a key defenseman on Lourdes’ Section 1A title team last winter. She’ll play college hockey at St. Scholastica, beginning this fall.
• Austin native Kory Potach, who played last season with the Grizzlies, announced his commitment last week to play college hockey at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. GCU is an ACHA Division I program.
• Former Austin Bruins forward Lucas Kohls will go to training camp with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. Kohls played two games for the Nailers last season after his college career at Wisconsin-Eau Claire came to an end. Kohls had 18 goals and 41 points for the Bruins in 2013-14.