By Erica Whyte
The Rochester Americans (2-0-0-0) opened their 62nd AHL season with a weekend sweep over the defending Eastern Conference Champion Syracuse Crunch (0-1-1-0). On Friday, Amerk fans were witness to a 3-1 victory at The Blue Cross Arena before a 3-2win in overtime in Saturday’s rematch with the Crunch at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse. After week one, the Amerks are tied for first in the North Division, and head coach Chris Taylor enters Week Two with an undefeated record as the newest bench boss.
Justin Bailey enters the week tied for seventh in the AHL in goals after scoring twice in Rochester’s season-opening win Friday night. Bailey scored the first goal of the season for the Amerks late in the first period and added another in the third, giving the third-year pro five goals in his last seven games dating back to last season.
Netminders Linus Ullmark and Adam Wilcox split goaltending duties this weekend. On Friday night, Ullmark made 28 of 29 saves in the victory, coming within just 2:26 of his second career shutout. Across the ice from Ullmark on Friday was Syracuse goaltender Michael Leighton. Formerly an Amerk, the 36-year-old Leighton manned the pipes for Rochester in 2005-06, and was teammates with both Taylor and Amerks assistant captain Nathan Paetsch.
Newcomer C.J. Smith is tied for the AHL scoring lead among rookies with three points (1+2) through his first two games with the Amerks. After notching an assist on Friday, Smith concluded the weekend by scoring his first pro goal to go along with an assist for his first multi-point effort in Saturday’s rematch against the Crunch.
Defenseman Zach Redmond, who was acquired in a trade with Montreal last week, recorded an assist in each game of the home-and-home series with Syracuse, tying him for sixth in points amongst AHL defensemen through the weekend.
After being named captain for the second time, veteran forward Kevin Porter netted a goal 39 seconds into overtime on Saturday, sealing the winning weekend. Saturday’s game was Porter’s 100th wearing the Amerk crest.
FRIDAY: Syracuse (1) vs. Rochester (3)
The Amerks opened their 62nd American Hockey League season with a 3-1 win over the defending Eastern Conference Champion Syracuse Crunch on Friday at The Blue Cross Arena.
Bailey notched a pair of goals and four shots, both of which led all Amerks, while newcomer Steve Moses capped off the scoring for Rochester. Ullmark made 28 of 29 saves in the victory.
Mitchell Stephens spoiled Ullmark's shutout bid late in the final period while former Amerk Michael Leighton stopped 17 of the 20 shots he faced but took the loss.
After each of the North Division rivals exchanged hooking penalties and chances during the opening 20 minutes of play, Bailey opened the scoring on the night with 1:28 left in the stanza. Redmond recorded the lone assist on the tally.
SATURDAY: Rochester (3) at Syracuse (2) – OT
Rochester closed out opening weekend with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory against the Crunch at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse on Saturday.
Smith notched his first-career professional multi-point effort with a goal and assist to pace the Amerks to the win while second-year forward Kyle Criscuolo and Porter each bagged their first markers of the slate for the Amerks.
Wilcox, who made his Amerks debut, earned his first victory of the season as he stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced on the night.
The Crunch were led by defenseman Ben Thomas as he plotted a pair of assists while Cory Conacher and Kevin Lynch each netted their first goals of the campaign. Meanwhile, rookie netminder Connor Ingram, who made his AHL/pro debut, took the loss.
As the Crunch tied the contest at 2-2 with 8:09 left in the third period thanks to Lynch's tally and the Amerks unable to capitalize on their fifth and sixth power plays of the night, the North Division showdown required an overtime period.
On the opening shift into the extra session, Porter tracked down a wide Syracuse shot that rolled the length of the ice and into the left corner. The wisely-veteran picked up the puck and used Justin Bailey as a decoy before firing the puck off the right post and into the net to give the Amerks a 3-2 victory.
The Amerks return to action on Friday, Oct. 13 as they host the Utica Comets at The Blue Cross Arena. The team will look for its third straight win to begin the season for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign. The contest will have a 7:05 p.m. opening puck drop and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.