St. Louis Jr. Blues (15-8-1, 31 pts) vs Rochester Grizzlies (15-4-1, 31 pts)
VENUE: Affton Ice Rink, Affton, Missouri
GAME TIMES: December 7 at 4 pm, December 8 at 1 pm (all times Central)
WHERE TO FOLLOW: All Jr. Blues home games are streamed live and in high definition on HockeyTV.com (subscription required). On Twitter, follow @JrBluesHockey and follow @stljrblues on Instagram for live updates, and search “St. Louis Jr. Blues” on Youtube for highlights.
A QUICK RECAP: The Jr. Blues ended their 47-day stretch of road games with a split before Thanksgiving, beating Milwaukee 8-1 before a 3-1 loss at Coulee Region, where the Chill scored all of their goals in the final frame.
HOME SWEET HOME: The Jr. Blues are playing their first games at Affton since the home series against North Iowa way back on the weekend of October 19. Since that time, the Jr. Blues have logged 3,858 miles on the road and played 10 games in five different cities, including their two longest pure road trips of the year to Granite City (624 miles) and New Ulm (554 miles). As for their record in this long road stretch, the club had an even split: five wins and five losses.
SHOWCASE LOWDOWN: Next week will see the Jr. Blues travel to Blaine, Minnesota for the annual NA3HL Showcase at the eight-sheet NSC Super Rink complex. Despite being in 1st place in the Central Division at the time of the standings freeze earlier in November, the Jr. Blues were seeded 3rd for scheduling purposes as Rochester and Coulee Region had superior percentages (competition points earned divided by total points available). Check back next week for a full preview and breakdown of the Jr. Blues’ Showcase schedule against Alexandria, Sheridan, and Louisiana.
SCOUTING THE GRIZZLIES: Rochester started the season off with a new coach (Chris Ratzloff, who took over behind the bench when Casey Mignone joined the staff of the NAHL’s St. Cloud Blizzard) and a new division (having played last year in the West Division with the other Minnesota clubs, they moved to the Central following Wisconsin’s move to Sheridan and Evansville exiting the league). They quickly put any doubts as to whether this would affect their form to bed, entering the weekend tied for first in the Central with four games in hand on the Jr. Blues. All but one of the Grizz’ top six scorers are returners from last year’s playoff team, with leading scorer Joey Fodstad (15 G, 15 A) having nearly eclipsed his point total from 2018-19 in half the games it took for him to reach 31 points last year. Their goaltending has also been impressive, with Swedish import Mathias Backstrom leading the league with a 1.31 goals-against average.
JUNIOR NOTES: St. Louis last played Rochester in 2016-17, when they were known as the Ice Hawks: last year the owners of the NAHL’s Austin Bruins purchased the Rochester club and re-branded them, which has led to an uptick in fortunes for them both on and off the ice.