'We'd like to have 20 of him': Grizzlies' Tschida racking up hits, wearing down opponents
Ben Tschida had a strong desire to play his final season of junior hockey for a program that is a consistent winner. The Woodbury native requested a trade from Alexandria of the NA3HL to the Rochester Grizzlies. That trade was worked out, and it has worked out well for Tschida and his new team.
ROCHESTER — Chris Ratzloff suspected Ben Tschida might have the instant impact he has indeed had on the Rochester Grizzlies this season.
Tschida’s effect on the Rochester Grizzlies hasn’t come on the stat sheet; that’s never really been his thing. The hard-nosed 6-feet, 190-pound forward from Woodbury has never tried to be something he’s not. Perhaps that’s what has endeared him to his Grizzlies teammates.
“We’d like to have 20 of him,” said Ratzloff, the Grizzlies’ fourth-year head coach.
After missing the first two games of the regular season to ensure he was fully healthy and ready to go, Tschida hasn’t left the lineup for the defending national champion Grizzlies. He’s a big reason the team is off to a 6-2-0 start in the young North American 3 Hockey League season and a big reason why Rochester sits in first place in the Central Division.
“Ben’s just a great guy. He’s always going to go out there and play hard in the defensive zone, be hard on the forecheck,” said Grizzlies second-year defenseman Logan Schwartzhoff, who played two seasons of high school hockey with Tschida at Woodbury High School. “Even if he doesn’t end up on the scoresheet much, you know he’s always going to make a difference somehow, every night out there.”
So far, Tschida has done exactly that.
He has a modest three points (one goal, two assists) in his first six games as a Grizzly, but he has undoubtedly led by example with his physical play and his ability to open up the game for his linemates.
Hits aren’t a statistic that is tracked by the NA3HL, but Tschida would almost certainly lead the Grizzlies in that category.
“The coaches here told me right away they wanted me to come in, be a leader,” Tschida said. “They want me to lead by example and that’s what I’m trying to do.
“They want me to be physical, show the younger guys how to play that style and just play a simple game.”
Good trade for both sides
That Tschida ended up in Rochester is viewed by both sides as something of a blessing.
The Grizzlies needed another veteran in the locker room and on the bench, and Tschida was looking to finish his junior hockey career with a winning program, after playing the past two seasons for the Alexandria Blizzard. Alexandria made the NA3HL West Division playoffs in both of Tschida’s seasons with the team, but failed to advance out of the first round on both occasions.
“I knew they have an excellent program here,” said Tschida, who had 42 points and 125 penalty minutes in 76 total games with the Blizzard. “I’d say it’s the best program in the (NA3HL). I wanted my last year of junior hockey to be a good one, so I requested a trade down here to Rochester and it worked out.”
Ratzloff was more than happy to see the trade offer come across his desk.
“He’s getting better every day,” Ratzloff said. “It’s a lot different here — he even said it in practice one day, the practices here are a lot different than what he’s used to. It might take a little time, but he has a lot of energy, he grinds. So, I think understanding his role and playing his role well is one of his biggest assets.
“That’s what he does.”
Ratzloff said Tschida’s role ultimately could be similar to that of Cody Reagle, a gritty power forward for the Grizzlies from 2019-21. He was a punishing forward who opponents did not like to play against.
“He’s going to create some offense and we’ll find him some (linemates) to build chemistry with,” Ratzloff said. “Once we get that figured out, his role might be a lot like Reagle’s was a couple of years ago. We put him out with two skill guys and he goes and creates a lot of chaos, then lets his linemates clean up.
“(Tschida) can create offensive opportunities for whoever he’s playing with.”
Tschida came to Rochester with one eye on winning a championship and one on advancing to play college hockey next season. For now, though, he is fully focused on helping a young Grizzlies team find the key to consistency.
“We have an unbelievable coaching staff here,” Tschida said. “They’ll do whatever it takes to help players out. Every guy is here for a reason and (the coaches) believe in every player here. They want us to move on and they’ll do whatever they can to make that happen.”
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Junior hockey this weekend
Friday: Grizzlies (6-2-0) at Mason City Toros (3-1-0), 7:10 p.m.
Saturday: Mason City at Rochester Grizzlies, 7:05 p.m. (Rochester Recreation Center)