The Rochester Grizzlies are winning and having fun — or perhaps, having fun and winning.
It’s not always clear which comes first, according to Joey Fodstad, the leading scorer on the second-year North American 3 Hockey League team.
“I see a lot of similarities to last year,” Fodstad said of the Grizzlies, who have followed up a 31-15-1-0 debut season in 2018-19 with a 16-5-1-0 start to 2019-20. “We like to define our culture by winning, but also having fun. So, we like to bring in guys who are willing to put in the hard work.
“We do a lot of hard work, but also have fun while competing in practice every day.”
The Grizzlies headed into a Saturday-Sunday weekend series in St. Louis tied with the Jr. Blues for the Central Division lead. The Minnesota-based Grizzlies have the division’s best winning percentage, matching St. Louis in standings points despite having four games in hand. A weekend split kept them tied in points.
Fodstad and his linemates are a big part of that success. The 19-year-old from Rogers, Minnesota, leads the team in goals (16) and points (32) while tied for the team lead in assists (16).
Fodstad said putting on almost 10 pounds through his offseason work in the weight room is paying off on the ice.
“Being a little older, being a little bigger really helps in a league that is so physical,” said Fodstad, who after 18 games is already within one point of his 41-game total of a year ago.
At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, he is bigger than his linemates, Porter Haney and Devin Hays, who are both 5-foot-7.
“They both work their butts off,” Fodstad said. “Porter is definitely the workhorse. He gets on the forecheck and gets the puck to Devin and me. We score a lot of goals together.”
Hays, who has also spent some time with the North American Hockey League’s Chippewa Steel this season, has seven goals in 14 games with the Grizzlies.
Haney has 16 assists, along with six goals, making him third on the team in scoring, behind Fodstad and Peyton Hart.
“Porter plays very well offensively and defensively,” Fodstad said. “He’s a very good two-way forward. It’s nice to play with someone you can count on.
“Every single game they play, they’re going to give it their all. I have two speedy forwards with me. I’m not exactly as quick, but I’m pretty creative and everything kind of works out.”
Fodstad had a five-goal game in the second weekend of the season. He has a pair of four-point efforts in the last five games, scoring his third game-winning goal and a short-handed goal during that stretch.
The Grizzlies have the division’s highest-scoring team with 104 goals, an average of 4.7 per game. They have four wins and an overtime loss in their last five outings.
Rochester is in its first season since moving over from the West Division, where it was knocked out in the first round of last season’s Fraser Cup playoffs in a series with the North Iowa Bulls.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.