Grant stays hot, Ullmark earns shutout, Amerks get weekend sweep
(Rochester, NY) – The Rochester Americans (27-37-0-2) closed out their three-in-three weekend the same way it began with a thrilling victory over the Springfield Thunderbirds (27-29-9-2). Thanks to timely saves from second-year goaltender Linus Ullmark, the Amerks shutout the Thunderbirds by the score of 2-0 Sunday afternoon at The Blue Cross Arena for the third win in as many days.
For the third time in the last three games, the Amerks were led by veteran forward Derek Grant (1+1) as he opened the scoring with his seventh goal of the season. The seven-year veteran closed out the weekend with six goals, including his first career hat trick, one assist and 15 shots while helping Rochester claim all six points this weekend. Nick Baptiste netted his team-leading 22nd goal of the campaign late in the third period while Ullmark made 28 saves in the victory for his AHL shutout and second straight win. He now shows a record of 24-26-2 on the campaign.
Paul Thompson and Jared McCann each fired five shots, which led the Thunderbirds, while netminder Adam Wilcox suffered his second straight defeat despite stopping 30 of 31 to earn third star honors.
After a slow, choppy opening eight minutes of the game, the Thunderbirds appeared to catch a break as the Amerks were called for a high-sticking infraction. However, Springfield’s power-play opportunity so turned in Rochester’s favor when Hudson Fasching blocked a shot just inside the Amerks zone. The rookie forward grabbed the puck and raced towards Wilcox along the boards while holding off the Springfield defender. Grant joined the rush as Fasching was tied up along the half-wall and received a pass in-between the face-off dots. Grant, who already five goals to his credit in the last two games, took a few strides before slipping a shot over left shoulder of Wilcox to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead with 10:22 to play in the period.
The Amerks carried the narrow advantage into the dressing room after the first-period horn sounded and into the second intermission break as well thanks to some timely saves by Ullmark. Springfield’s best chance came late in the middle frame when an attempt hit the crossbar but never made its way past the Rochester netminder.
Following the break, Rochester came out firing with a period-high 14 shots on Wilcox before Baptiste provided the insurance marker with 26 seconds left in regulation. The tally was the scored while the Amerks were on the power-play and with Wilcox on the bench.
“We had a great weekend,” said Ullmark. “We have a streak going as the boys were terrific today as they were helping me out immensely. They were blocking shots, keeping Springfield on the outside and giving me clear sight of the puck.
“I thought tonight, and throughout the weekend, that we competed,” said Amerks head coach Dan Lambert. “We have talked about doing it all year and we had some guys step up big for us, including Derek Grant. I thought he was outstanding for us as he scored some big goals for us at some key times. There were a lot of other guys who stepped up as well, including (Cole) Schneider, (Hudson) Fasching, and the penalty killers were solid as with our goaltender. Overall, it was a solid weekend.”
After the Baptiste goal, the Thunderbirds continued to push, but Ullmark made the final two saves of the night to preserve the shutout and the third win of the weekend.
“As a goaltender, this is what we are always trying to do,” said Ullmark when talking about his shutout. “I think, I have been close a couple of times, especially my first game as an Amerk, and it only took me around 100 more games to finally get one.”
The Amerks kick off another three-in-three stretch on Friday, March 31 as they host the Utica Comets in the first of two meetings on the weekend at The Blue Cross Arena. Following Friday’s 7:05 p.m. matchup, the Amerks will face the Comets again on Saturday, April 1 when the home-and-home series shifts to Mohawk Valley for a 7:00 p.m. showdown at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Both contests will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Grant (7), Baptiste (22)
RCH: Ullmark – 28/28 (W)
SPR: Wilcox – 30/31 (L)
RCH: PP (1/5) / PK (5/5)
SPR: PP (0/5) / PK (4/5)