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Mayo grad Cothern shines in first start with Grizzlies, leads team past rival Peoria

Tate Cothern made 23 saves in his first start as a Rochester Grizzly, leading the team to a 2-1 North American 3 Hockey League victory at rival Peoria (Ill.) on Saturday.

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Former Rochester Mayo goalie Tate Cothern, shown here during a practice for the Spartans last season, won his first start at the junior hockey level on Saturday night. Cothern made 23 saves in his first appearance for the Rochester Grizzlies, as they beat rival Peoria (Ill.) 2-1, at Peoria.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo
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PEORIA, Ill. — The Rochester Grizzlies coaching staff decided to put some pressure on Tate Cothern’s shoulders Saturday night.

The Rochester Mayo graduate handled it like a seasoned veteran, in his first start in junior hockey.

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Cothern stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced to backstop the Grizzlies to a tight 2-1 win against the Peoria Mustangs, who are Rochester’s top rival in the North American 3 Hockey League Central Division.

Cothern’s performance — along with goals from rookie Luke Sawicky and Lyncoln Bielenberg-Howarth — helped the Grizzlies snap a two-game losing streak and improve to 6-2-0 overall.

Cothern is one of three goalies on the Grizzlies roster this year, along with returning veterans Lucas Henderson and Kaleb Bents. Cothern had twice dressed as a backup for Rochester this season before getting his first game action on Saturday in a big spot.

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Rochester's victory snapped a two-game losing skid and lifted its record to 6-2-0 overall in the young season. It's a much-needed win to right the ship for a team that started off hot — winning its first five games — before falling off over the next two.

Saturday's game didn't start well for Cothern or his team. Peoria scored just 2:30 into the game, on its first shot of the night, as the Mustangs' leading goal scorer Tristan Trudel notched his fifth goal of the season.

Cothern and Rochester's defense were locked in from there, though. The Grizzlies held Peoria to 24 shots, a night after surrendering 39 shots in a 4-1 loss in the series opener on Friday.

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Tate Cothern

"He was really good," Grizzlies head coach Chris Ratzloff said of Cothern. "He was a little nervous at the beginning, and that first shot, that's a tough one, having Trudel come down for the first shot he sees. But Tate made a couple of big saves there in the first and settled in after that."

Rookie forward Luke Sawicky scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season with 4:22 to go in the first to tie the score 1-1.

That's how it remained until more than halfway through the third period, when another former Rochester high school star, former Century standout Bielenberg-Howarth, notched his second goal of the season. His tally came with 6:11 to go in regulation, and held up as the game winner.

Zach Laurila, Erik Hernborn and veteran defenseman Tyler Huffer all had one assist each for Rochester.

"We were much better tonight," Ratzloff said. "We worked all week on what we were going to do and how you have to play against Peoria, and we didn't execute (Friday). ... Tonight we executed our game plan. (Friday) we weren't focused, but tonight we did those things we needed to do."

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The Grizzlies return to action next weekend with a non-division home-and-home series against the Mason City (Iowa). The teams play at Mason City at 7:10 p.m. Friday, then return to Rochester for a 7:05 p.m. game Saturday at the Recreation Center.

SATURDAY BOX SCORE: Rochester Grizzlies 2, Peoria Mustangs 1

FRIDAY BOX SCORE: Peoria Mustangs 4, Rochester Grizzlies 1

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or jfeldman@postbulletin.com.
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