Rochester Grizzlies, supermite girls team going pink for a purpose
The Rochester Grizzlies will hold their annual Pink Night, to raise funds for cancer research at Mayo Clinic, on Saturday. The Grizzlies will wear special pink jerseys, as will a Rochester Youth Hockey Association girls team, which will play during the first intermission.
The Rochester Grizzlies will have a different look this weekend.
So will the Rochester Youth Hockey Association girls Supermites team that will take the ice during the first intermission of Saturday night’s game at the Rochester Recreation Center.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Grizzlies are holding their annual Pink Night game — a chance to raise money for cancer research at Mayo Clinic. The Grizzlies will again wear special themed jerseys that will be auctioned off following Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. game against Rochester’s NA3HL Central Division rival, the Oregon (Wis.) Tradesmen.
The RYHA Supermites will also wear special jerseys, courtesy of Joe Powers and Powers Ventures. Some of the youngest players in RYHA, they’ll wear their own specially designed pink jerseys, with pink numbers on the back, along with the phrase “Pink is my Power.”
“Everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another,” Grizzlies coach Chris Ratzloff said. “Whether it’s immediate family or a grandparent or friend, it’s touched everyone in some way.”
The Grizzlies will wear their cancer awareness-themed jerseys for both games of the two-night series against Oregon. The games are set to begin at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
Rochester’s jerseys for Pink Night this year are black, with the Grizzlies logo on the front, in the center of a giant pink ribbon, the color that represents breast cancer. On the sleeves of the jerseys are three thick pink stripes, with approximately a dozen colored ribbons — including light blue (prostate cancer), yellow (bone cancer), lime green (lymphoma) and orange (leukemia), among others — on a black stripe in between two of the pink stripes.
The various ribbons also circle a black stripe around the bottom of the jerseys, and they appear on a black stripe on the players socks, below the knee.
“Anytime you have a game like this, it’s special. In the past it’s always been a good, motivating thing for our guys. It hasn’t been a distraction; it’s been a positive. The guys get excited to play (in the special jerseys) and in front of a good crowd.”
Big cause, big games
The RYHA Supermites will get to keep their jerseys, while the Grizzlies’ jerseys will be auctioned off following Saturday’s game. A silent auction will also be held at the Rec Center during Saturday’s game. All proceeds from the jersey and silent auctions will go to cancer research at Mayo Clinic.
The Grizzlies’ sibling team in the NAHL, the Austin Bruins, will also hold its Pink Night on Saturday, when the Bruins host the North Iowa Bulls at 7:05 p.m. at Riverside Arena in Austin.
This weekend’s two-game series is a key one for Rochester, aside from the funds it hopes to raise for cancer research and treatment.
The Grizzlies (26-8-4, 56 points) hold a slim two-point lead atop the NA3HL Central Division standings over Oregon (25-7-4, 54 points), and the Tradesmen have two games in hand. A sweep would put the Grizzlies back in the driver’s seat. A split or a Tradesmen sweep would give Oregon a leg up.
The Grizzlies will have seven regular-season games to go after this weekend; Oregon will have nine remaining.
“We definitely know that’s the case,” Ratzloff said when asked if this weekend’s series will decide the regular-season division championship, “but we’re not really talking about that. Our main concern is that we’re playing the right way.
“If we play their game, it’ll be high scoring, run-and-gun and we probably won’t come out on top. If we play our game, it’ll be more low-scoring, a defensive battle, physical.”
Cothern takes control of the goal
It appears as though the Grizzlies have found their No. 1 goaltender they’ve been searching for all season. On the heels of three straight seasons in which Rochester has had the NA3HL Goalie of the Year (Mathias Backstrom, Shane Soderwall and Zach Wiese), this season has been more of a goalie-by-committee approach for the Grizzlies.
Rochester has used four goalies this season — three of whom have started 10 or more games — but Cothern appears to have taken control of the net. The Mayo High School graduate has started four consecutive games and five of the past six. For the season, he is 11-2-0 with a 1.31 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. He has four shutouts and has allowed more than two goals in a game just twice.
“This is what we expected, we just didn’t know how long it would take,” Ratzloff said of Cothern seizing the No. 1 role. “He’s stopping pucks and his practice habits have definitely gotten better. He still has room to grow, but he’s understanding now that ‘hey, I might be able to play all the time if I keep putting up these numbers and showing it in practice.’”
Cothern’s 1.31 GAA leads the entire NA3HL by a wide margin (Virginia, Minn., native Ian Kangas of the Northeast Generals in Attleboro, Mass., is second at 1.57) and Cothern’s save percentage is second in the league only to Hunter Hein of the Texas Roadrunners.
“Tate’s kind of the perfect goalie, mentally,” Ratzloff said. “He’s just always his usual self, a happy guy. He can be good or not so good and you wouldn’t know the difference. He’s tough on himself, but he doesn’t take it out on anyone else.”
Berglund is bringin’ it
Ryan Berglund has played on the big stage before, so nerves aren’t really a part of his game. The Mahtomedi native scored 13 goals and 23 points for the Zephyrs as a junior, when they won the 2020 Class A state championship, beating Hermantown 3-2 in overtime.
It’s come as no surprise to Ratzloff that Berglund has become a leader on the ice and in the locker room for the Grizzlies this season. Berglund started the season with the Wisconsin Windigo of the Tier II NAHL, before ending up with Rochester in the Tier III NA3HL. Once Berglund became comfortable with his surroundings here, he has flourished.
“Bergy’s biggest thing, like all guys who spend some time in the NA, they’re not happy — and rightfully so — when they’re sent down,” Ratzloff said. “It’s just a matter of, how long does it take for them to know they just need to make the best of where they’re at, and by doing that, they’ll get more opportunities.”
Berglund has found that sweet spot. In 23 games with the Grizzlies, he has seven goals, 13 assists and a plus-10 plus/minus rating. He’s coming off a four-point weekend in which he scored three goals and assisted on another as Rochester swept a two-game series at Peoria (Ill.).
“After the first couple of weeks here, all of a sudden things clicked for him,” Ratzloff said. “He’s been our hardest-working kid lately, our most competitive, getting after guys in practice if they’re not competing hard, and he’s getting the results now.”
Berglund is centering Rochester’s top line, with veterans Luke Morrisette and Austin Meers on his wings. That trio combined for nine points in last weekend’s wins at Peoria.
“We ask our centers to be good defensively and that’s something he does,” Ratzloff said. “He competes so hard, and he’s fast; he gets up and down the ice.”