By Jim den Hollander Editor/Publisher Midwesthockey.info In its first games since capturing the NA3HL’s Fraser Cup last spring, the Rochester Grizzlies opened the 2022-23 campaign with a pair of wins in the same city. Grizzlies had offensive contributions from 14 players, led by Austin Meers (’02/St. Charles, MO) who played a part in the Fraser Cup title and opened the new season as the Central Division’s first Bauer Hockey Star of the Week with three goals and five points. That helped the visitors to 7-0 and 7-2 wins on a tough weekend, Sept. 9-10 on home ice in Affton for the St. Louis Jr. Blues. Other Midwest-based opening weekends saw the Peoria Mustangs opening on home ice with 5-1 and 2-1 wins against the Milwaukee Power and the West Division was represented by a split in Breezy Point, MN. The Minnesota Loons captured an impressive 7-1 win against New Ulm Steel in the opener Friday but the Steel bounced back with a 4-3 edge in the getaway game on Saturday. Rochester Grizzlies 7, 7 St. Louis Jr. Blues 0, 2 In the opening contest, Lucas Henderson (’02/Lansing, MI) opened his season with a 24-save shutout for the Grizzlies while Luke Sawicky (’04/Osseo, MN) and Erik Henborn (’04/Sweden) paced the attack with two goals apiece.
Meers, Connor Stoffel (’04/Hastings, MN) and Per Waage (’02/Plymouth, MN) scored the others. Mason Brooks (‘0 4/Fairbanks, AK) made 30 saves in goal for the Blues. The following night the Grizzlies grabbed a 6-1 cushion with three goals in each of the first two periods, both teams adding one more down the stretch. Meers fired two and set up another with Zachary Sweitzer (’04/Rosemount, MN); Henborn, Brady Spencer (”03/Cottage Grove, MN); Tyler Ownby (’02/Sioux City, IA) and Spencer Klotz (’03/Northfield, MN) counting the others, the latter adding two assists. Jacob Heuerman (’03/Eureka, MO) and Brady Burke (’03/Port Richey, FL) scored the Jr. Blues’ goals. Kaleb Bents (’03/St. Croix Falls) collected his first win with 31 stops for the Griz while Ian Zeumer (’04/Lauderdale, MN) was easily the busiest guy on the night, making 49 stops in goal on home ice. Milwaukee Power 1, 1 Peoria Mustangs 6, 2 Patrick Toomey (’02/Phoenix, AZ) put the Power up with the only goal of the opening period for the visitors, but the Mustangs held a 35-10 edge in shots the rest of the way, including a 24-2 domination in the middle frame.
The following night was much closer on both the shot clock and scoreboard, James Duenwald (’04/Balwin, MO) breaking a 1-1 deadlock with the game winner early in the final period.
The other goals came in the opening 20, Bryce Garber (’03/Osceola, IN) getting the Power in front early for a second straight night before Chesney equalized 3:57 from the first period buzzer. Carroll stopped 29 for the Power, Cam Pendleton (’02/Little Elm, TX stopping all but one of 24 in goal for the Mustangs. Minnesota Loons 7, 3 New Ulm Steel 1, 4 After winning just five times last season, the Loons got the new campaign off to an impressive start on home ice, using three unanswered middle period goals with a 26-3 margin in shots in the period to turn a 2-1 edge into a 5-1 cushion on its way to a lopsided win.
Dmitri Kuleshov (’04/Sydney, Australia) and Tyrone Fevry (’06/Toronto, Canada) paced the Loons with two goals and an assist apiece, other goals added by Mason Wharton (’06/Toronto, Canada); Derrand Wilcox (’04/Mankato, MN) and Blake Keller (’02/St. Cloud, MN). Keaton French (’02/Fairbanks, AK) opened the new season with a 29-save win for the Loons.
Gus Cantwell (’03/St. Paul, MN) triggered the lone Steel goal and Nolan Lacosse (’03/Stillwater) took the loss despite kicking out 50 shots in goal. The following night the Loons scored the lone first period goal and doubled its margin in the second before the Steel struck with three of four to even the game at 3-3 heading to the final 20. That set the stage for Macrae Gordon (’03/Woodbury, MN) who sank the game winner for New Ulm just past the five-minute mark of the final period. Other Steel goals came from Cantwell, Conner Souza (’03/Calabasas, CA) and Zach Dalzell (’02/Thief River Falls, MN). Holden Pratt (’03/Grand Rapids, MI) scored twice, Kuleshov adding the other for the Loons. Dixon Ehlers (’04/Red Wing, MN) picked up the win for the Steel with a 32-save effort in goal and the Loons went back to French who stopped 25 of 29.
Nick O’Brien (’03/Lino Lakes, MN) picked up four assists on the weekend to earn the Bauer Hockey Star of the Week for the Steel.
Born and raised in Ontario, Canada and moved to the state of Wisconsin in my late 30's. I worked at various newspapers and magazines in various sports positions for 25 years before changing careers five years ago. Now I am streamlining my focus on hockey only and in particular, all levels of hockey in the American Midwest.