By Erica Whyte
In their first three-in-three of the calendar year, the Rochester Americans (16-19-0-1) came out on top in two games, both of which were won beyond regulation time. One week shy of this season’s halfway point, the Amerks sit tied for fourth place in the North Division.
On Friday night, the Amerks squared up against intrastate rival Syracuse (18-9-1-5) for the seventh time this year. Although the first-place Crunch took control in the first five games, the Amerks have prevailed in the last two, most recently thanks to captain Cal O’Reilly, who scored the lone shootout goal on Friday, giving the Amerks the 4-3 edge. While O’Reilly scored the game-deciding goal in the skills competition, rookie Vaclav Karabacek recorded his first career AHL two-point (0+2) night in the Amerks victory. Nick Baptiste, Kyle Bonis and Daniel Muzito-Bagenda all lit the lamp during regulation. Linus Ullmark made 36 saves on the 39 shots he faced to claim his in third straight victory to up his record to 14-12-1.
SYRACUSE (3) VS. ROCHESTER (4), SO
On Saturday the Amerks headed north of the border to face the Toronto Marlies (15-16-2-1) for the fourth and fifth times this season. After a 5-0 Marlies shutout in game one, the Amerks answered back on Sunday with a 4-3 overtime win, marking D-man Mac Bennett’s first game-winning goal since December 17, 2014 as a Hamilton Bulldog. O’Reilly recorded a pair of assists to lead Rochester to its fourth win in the last five games. With Casey Nelson added his third goal of the slate while Justin Vaive scored his first as an Amerk in his 35th game of the season. In just his sixth start of the season, Amerks goaltender John Muse made 38 saves to earn the win and now shows a record of 2-3-0 on the campaign.
ROCHESTER (0) AT TORONTO (5)
ROCHESTER (4) AT TORONTO (3), OT
This weekend was as packed with games as it was with Amerks milestones. On Friday night, second-year forward Nick Baptiste played in his 100th professional game, and Tim Kennedy notched his 200th AHL assist. On Sunday, newcomer Bobby Shea skated in his 200th pro game- a game that opened up with a goal by Baptiste and assisted by O’Reilly, his 500th professional point. Later on, Justin Vaive scored his first goal as an Amerk, marking his 100th professional point.
Amerks players were also making an impact in arenas elsewhere. After playing seven games for Team Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Tournament, 18-year-old rookie Alexander Nylander tied for the tournament lead with 12 points (5+7), and earlier in the week, Justin Bailey scored his first NHL goal for the Buffalo Sabres.
Rochester hosts the Hartford Wolf Pack for the second-time Wednesday night before welcoming the league-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Friday night for the first and only time of the campaign. The Penguins’ lone appearance also sees the return of assistant coach Chris Taylor, who spent the last five years in the same capacity in Rochester. As a player, Taylor spent nine seasons as an Amerk and was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 2015. Both contests are slated for 7:05 p.m. and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.