Amerks fall to the Crunch at KeyBank Center
(Buffalo, NY) – The Rochester Americans (26-14-8-5) saw their three-game win streak at KeyBank Center come an end as they made their annual trek down the New York State Thruway to play in the home of the Buffalo Sabres. Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the intrastate rival Syracuse Crunch (31-18-2-3) drops the Amerks to fourth place in the American Hockey League’s North Division standings.
Despite the loss, the Amerks have collected at least one point in 14 of their last 19 games since the turn of the New Year and 36 of their last 46 games dating back to Nov. 1.
Rookie Sean Malone tallied his first-career shorthanded goal and sixth of season for the Amerks in the opening frame while goaltender Linus Ullmark stopped 29 of 31 shots he faced in the contest but took the loss. The Swedish netminder shows a record of 18-10-8 in 37 appearances on the campaign.
Forward Carter Verhaeghe chipped in with a pair of helpers to help the Crunch secure the victory and move into third place of the Division, a point ahead of Rochester. First-year center Mitchell Stephens bagged his 18th marker of the season as Matthew Peca, who was reassigned to Syracuse earlier in the day from the Tampa Bay Lightning, notched his ninth of the slate. Connor Ingram improved to 14-9-2 on the year as the rookie netminder made 19 saves.
Early in the first period, the Amerks took the game’s first penalty of contest but it was Rochester that capitalized on the situation as Malone picked the top corner of Ingram’s cage.
“The puck squeezed up the right side,” said the Buffalo native when describing his shorthanded tally. “Eric Cornel was able to get a stick on the puck and luckily it fell to mine. We were able to go down on a 2-on-1 and I was able to get the shot off near-side.”
Cornel and Taylor Fedun each recorded the assists on the goal at the 5:01 mark of the first period.
Rochester carried the lead into the second stanza but Syracuse quickly flipped a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead as they scored a pair of markers just 10 seconds apart.
Defenseman Dominik Masin fired a shot from the point towards Ullmark but the rebound made its way to Verhaeghe. With bodies around him, he spotted Stephens to the right of the net and the AHL All-star buried his team-leading 18th goal of the season to knot the score at 1-1.
On the ensuing shift, Syracuse entered the Amerks zone on a 3-on-2 odd-man rush. Former Amerk Mat Bodie drove the center lane before sliding a pass to Verhaeghe to his right. After gathering the puck, Verhaeghe attempted a cross-crease pass to a waiting Peca and the winger made the puck change direction before slipping it into the net to give the Crunch a 2-1 advantage at the 18:24 mark of the stanza.
Syracuse took the lead into the intermission break and outshot Rochester 14-3 during the second period.
“We could not get the puck out and had a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “The second period was tough for us. We have to get back to the basics and we will work on that tomorrow in practice.”
The Amerks tried to even the score during the final frame but Ingram made timely saves despite Rochester drawing three penalties, including a double-minor infraction and having a two-man advantage for the last 27 seconds of regulation. With the 2-1 win, the Crunch have won four straight in the head-to-head series after Rochester claimed the first two contests.
The Amerks are back at The Blue Cross Arena on Friday, Feb. 23 for the front-end of a home-and-home set with the league-leading Toronto Marlies. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the first of three meetings over the next eight days between the North Division rivals and can be heard live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Malone (6)
SYR: Stephens (18), Peca (9)
RCH: Ullmark – 29/31 (L)
SYR: Ingram – 19/20 (W)
RCH: PP (0/5) | PK (4/4)
SYR: PP (0/4) | PK (5/5)