By Erica Whyte
The Rochester Americans closed out their final three-in-three of the campaign on Sunday, wrapping another up and down weekend that saw the Amerks host the Hershey Bears and Utica Comets before one last trip north of the border for a North Division showdown against the Toronto Marlies. Despite going 2-2-0-0 on the week, Rochester enters the final week having won seven of its last 10.
BINGHAMTON (2) AT ROCHESTER (5)
The Amerks scored 2:58 into Wednesday’s game with the Binghamton Senators (26-41-2-2) at The Blue Cross Arena and never looked back as the Amerks cruised to a 5-2 win to kick-off a busy stretch of four games in five nights. With the victory, the Amerks have won four straight on home ice and six of their last seven overall. Veteran forward Tim Kennedy led the Amerks offense as he recorded a three-assist night, the most since Dec. 5, 2014 as member of the Hershey Bears when he collected four helpers. Second-year forward Nick Baptiste found the back of the net for the fifth time in the last four games to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games. Former Senators Patrick Mullen and Cole Schneider each scored their third goal of the season against their former club, and for Schneider, he upped his point-streak (3+6) to a season-long seven games. Meanwhile, Hudson Fasching and Daniel Muzito-Bagenda capped off the scoring for Rochester. Goaltender Jonas Johansson made 29 saves in his first-career home start and is now a 3-1-0 in his four appearances in the AHL since joining the team back on March 24.
HERSHEY (3) AT ROCHESTER (2)
The 454th all-time meeting between the AHL’s two oldest teams began favorably for Rochester as Casey Nelson needed only 26 seconds after the opening face-off in Friday’s matchup with the Bears to spot the Amerks a 1-0 leads. His sixth of the season was athe fastest goal scored by an Amerk on the year. Fellow rookie defenseman Brendan Guhle rounded out scoring on the night, with his first marker of the season after being reassigned earlier in the day. The 19-year-old blueliner’s tally was his second in the AHL and fifth point (2+3) after joining Rochester for the final six games of the 2015-16 campaign. First-year goaltender Jonas Johansson, who made his fourth straight start, made 17 saves in the defeat after seeing his two-game win streak halted, as Hershey came out with a 3-2 victory.
UTICA (0) AT ROCHESTER (5)
On Saturday, the Amerks hosted the Utica Comets for the second time in eight days. 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 during the third annual Pink the Rink Night at The Blue Cross Arena. Muse earned his first shutout since April 10, 2014, 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.
“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 and 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.”
“Getting a shutout for Muse was pretty big for him,” added Schneider. “He has not played a lot of games this season and to see 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.”
ROCHESTER (3) AT TORONTO (4)
To close out their weekend, the Amerks stormed out to a 2-0 first-period lead on a pair of goals just 1:33 apart, but let it slip away as the Toronto Marlies responded with four goals in the second. A late push from the Amerks was not enough, though, as their North Division foes came away with a 4-3 victory at Ricoh Coliseum.
Schneider (1+1), Nick Baptiste (0+2) and Nelson (0+2) each recorded two points for Rochester, which despite the loss, has won seven of its last 10 games entering the final stretch of the regular season. Schneider’s goal and assist on the night keep him leading the Amerks points race by 20 while also allowing him to surpass the 60-point mark for the first time in his pro career. A night after scoring his first AHL goal in last night’s 5-0 win over Utica, Danforth tallied his second goal in as many nights while Bailey also found the back of the net for the second straight game, bringing his goal total to 22 on the year. Johansson returned the paint for Rochester, turning aside 27 of 31 shots he faced to fall to 3-3-0 through his first six appearances as an Amerk.
NEWCOMERS MAKING IMMEDIATE IMPACT
Over the course of last week, the Amerks signed Anthony Florentino, Troy Crema, Justin Danforth and Alexandre Goulet, all of whom at one point made their pro or Amerk debuts during the weekend. Goulet made his pro debut in Friday’s 3-2 loss to Hershey before Florentino, who signed an AHL deal with the Amerks for next season, joined Crema in the Amerks lineup on Sunday. Danforth, meanwhile, had the most impactful debut for the Amerks, closing out the weekend with goals in back-to-back games. At the NHL level, Alexander Nylander collected his first NHL point with an assist in Buffalo’s season-ending loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday while Linus Ullmark made 33 saves in his lone appearance of the season with the Sabres.
SCHNEIDER CONTINUES TO ROLL
Entering the week, Schneider remains Rochester’s top point-getter with a career-high 61 points (24+37) in 68 games, including 12 points (5+7) over his last 10 games. He surpassed the 60-point mark for the first in his pro career with a goal and an assist Sunday in Toronto, becoming the first Amerk to do so since Phil Varone put up 61 points during the 2013-14 season. For the second consecutive year, Schneider is one of three Amerks to score 20-plus goals. He joins Bailey, who scored 20 goals last season, and Baptiste (25) as the other two Amerks to reach the mark this season.
UP NEXT FOR ROCHESTER
The Amerks begin the final week of the season when they return to The Blue Cross Arena on Wednesday, April 12 for a rematch with the Binghamton Senators. The 7:05 p.m. contest opens a stretch of three games in four nights for Rochester before a home-and-home series with the Albany Devils to close out the regular season.
FAN APPRECIATION NIGHT SET FOR FRIDAY
The Amerks will hold Fan Appreciation Night presented by Tops Friendly Markets during the team’s final regular season home game this Friday against the Albany Devils. The first 7,500 fans in attendance will receive a 2016-17 Amerks Team Photo courtesy of Tops Friendly Markets, with select Season Ticket Members receiving the Amerks blue jerseys “off the backs” of the players following the game. Prior to the game, the 2016-17 Team Awards will be presented, including the Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player, Rob Zabelny Unsung Hero and the Fairand O’Neil Sportsmanship Award. The winner of the “7th Man-Fan of the Year” will also be recognized while the winners of the Amerks Booster Club Awards, such as Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Player, will be announced.