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'You can trust him day in, day out': Schwartzhoff brings veteran presence to Grizzlies

After spending the preseason in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, big, physical defenseman Logan Schwartzhoff has rejoined the Rochester Grizzlies. He adds size and another veteran presence to the team's defensive corps.

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Logan Schwartzhoff
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Ben Tschida saw it every day at practice during the final two years of his high school hockey career at Woodbury.

He saw the way Logan Schwartzhoff used his big frame, his long stick and his strength to be a difference-maker.

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Ben Tschida

So when Tschida saw Schwartzhoff show up in the Rochester Grizzlies locker room at the start of this season, he knew exactly what the reigning North American 3 Hockey League national champions were adding to their roster.

“He’s great at playing his role,” said Tschida, who joined the Grizzlies this season after spending the past two years with the NA3HL’s Alexandria Blizzard. “In the defensive zone, coaches love it when guys lay the body (to opposing players). He’s always hitting guys, making smart plays, doesn’t make a lot of turnovers — that’s the biggest thing for our defensemen. We ask them to do a lot. He knows his role and he does it well.”

Schwartzhoff, a 6-feet-3, 215-pound right-shot blue-liner, played in 47 games for the Grizzlies as a rookie last season, when the team won its first-ever Fraser Cup. He wanted to try his hand at a higher level this season, so he spent preseason camp with the Melfort Mustangs in the rugged Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

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“It didn’t work out up there, but I was happy to come back to Rochester,” Schwartzhoff said this week, after playing in his first game of the season for the Grizzlies last Saturday. “It was a great experience up there, though. I think it helped prepare me to come back here. It was even more physical up there than it is here.

“It was a step up from the (NA3HL) and it was a good opportunity to go up there and play with some talented guys. It showed me that I have to work really hard.”

Grizzlies coaches Chris Ratzloff and Tyler Veen talked with Schwartzhoff after last season, and left the door open for him to return to Rochester if things didn’t work out in Canada. With his return, though, the Grizzlies have 13 defensemen on the roster, with six or a maximum of seven dressing on game night. That means Schwartzhoff — and all of the team’s defensemen — are battling every day in practice to earn a spot in the lineup.

“It’s always good to have another veteran guy back,” Ratzloff said of Schwartzhoff’s return. “I think with the experience has in our league, he can help the other guys understand the urgency we need to play with, that we can’t sit back.

“He’s also a really good ‘team’ guy. He’s a good coachable player who really tries hard to do what we’re teaching. Obviously he has good size and a long stick. His biggest thing is he needs to defend well, move pucks quickly and not try to do too much.”

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Ratzloff

Whether Schwartzhoff is in the lineup or not this weekend, his veteran presence will be relied upon as Rochester heads to face its top rival in the NA3HL Central Division, the Peoria (Ill.) Mustangs. The Grizzlies were just 1-2-1 in their games at Peoria last season, the lone win coming by one goal, in a game in which Rochester needed an extra-attacker goal with 17 seconds to go in regulation, forcing overtime.

The series at Peoria — game times are scheduled as 6 p.m. tonight and Saturday — are also coming on the heels of the Grizzlies’ first loss of this season, a 5-3 setback to Oregon (Wis.) last Saturday, a game in which Rochester never led.

“We’ve had some good practices this week,” Schwartzhoff said. “We’ve been working hard, skating a lot. They’ve been really physical, trying to ramp up our intensity after last weekend. We need to take a step up here and we’ve been working this week to make that happen.”

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For Schwartzhoff, that means being sound with the puck, making good, quick decisions, and using his size and strength to his advantage.

“He’s just one of those guys who you can trust day in, day out,” Tschida said. “He knows his job and he executes.”

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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