Balanced attack, 33-save shutout from Muse, lead Amerks to 5-0 win
(Rochester, NY) – The Rochester Americans (31-39-0-2) hosted the Utica Comets (34-29-7-2) for the second time in eight days, and for the seventh time in their last nine games, the Amerks came out with a victory. Rochester goaltender John Muse stopped all 33 shots he faced for his first shutout in nearly three years to the day as he blanked the Comets for a 5-0 win Saturday night during the third annual Pink the Rink Night at The Blue Cross Arena.
Muse earned his first shutout since April 10, 2014 as a member of the Charlotte Checkers while Derek Grant (1+1), Patrick Mullen (0+2) and Tim Kennedy (0+2) paced the Amerks offense with two points each. Cole Schneider, Justin Bailey, Justin Danforth and Brady Austin all chipped in with their own tallies for Rochester’s fifth home win in its last six contests.
Evan McEneny registered a team-high five shots on net for the Comets while rookie netminder Michael Garteig, who made just his eighth start of the campaign, made 21 saves as he fell to 0-4-2.
After failing to score on the power-play on their five opportunities in last night’s game against Hershey, the Amerks scored twice with their man-advantage in the opening 20 minutes.
“I thought we had a real solid game,” said Amerks head coach Dan Lambert. “Our penalty kill was really good especially with the five-on-three’s that we had against us. Muse had a really good contest tonight and lastly I thought our power-play unit stepped up big for us and had a couple of goals and that was nice to see them get rewarded.”
Schneider, Rochester’s leading point-getter, scored just 3:59 into the contest as he ripped his 23rd goal of season and 10th point (4+6) over his last eight games to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead. Mullen and Kennedy each notched their first of two assists on the night on the goal that would eventually stand as the game-winner.
Seconds after the expiration of his slashing infraction, Bailey left the penalty box, stripped a Comet defender of the puck and kicked it up to his own skate before racing in all alone on Garteig from the center face-off dot. The second-year forward fired a shot to the left side of the cage while shrugging off pressure from a Utica defenseman in pursuit for his 21st goal of the campaign.
The Amerks carried the momentum of the two-goal lead, adding one more before the opening frame came to a close. With the puck atop the offensive zone, Mullen fired a shot off a Comet before regaining control and finding Kennedy along half-wall. Kennedy fired a shot that Grant was able to get a stick on and redirect past Garteig for his ninth off the season with just 34 seconds left in the period.
The home squad emerged from the intermission break ahead 3-0 over their North Division rivals and upped the lead to a four-goal cushion thanks to newcomer Danforth for his first in the AHL.
“It felt great to get the monkey off my back,” said Danforth. “It was a hard fore-check and their guy turned the puck over and I got a lucky and it felt great.”
To round out the scoring, Austin blasted his fourth goal of the season to the upper right corner at the 13:01 mark of the third period. The Comets, however, did not go away quietly, throwing 15 more attempts on Muse to spoil the shutout bid, but the veteran netminder was equal to the task and remained perfect the rest of the way.
“Getting a shutout for Muse was pretty big for him,” said Schneider. “He has not played a lot of games this season and to see a Brendan Guhle block a shot late in the game in a 5-0 game…that shows how bad we wanted to keep them off the board.”
The Amerks put the finishing touches on their final three-in-three of the campaign on Sunday, April 9 as they head north of the border to close out their season series against the red-hot Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum. The 5:00 p.m. matchup will be the 10th and final meeting between the two teams this season and can be heard live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Schneider (23), Bailey (21), Grant (9), Danforth (1), Austin (4)
RCH: Muse – 33/33 (W)
UTI: Garteig – 21/26 (L)
RCH: PP (2/8) / PK (6/6)
UTI: PP (0/6) / PK (6/8)