Marcus Foligno scored the first goal of his professional career, but the Rochester Americans came up short in their home opener by a score of 5-1 in front of 9,217 fans at The Blue Cross Arena on Thursday night. Despite outshooting the Pens 30-21, the Amerks fell victim to an impressive goaltending performance by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender Brad Thiessen, who stymied the squad’s offensive opportunities until they finally found the back of the net late in the third period.
Foligno’s goal was assisted by Zack Kassian and Travis Turnbull, marking the second point in as many games for Kassian. Goaltender Drew MacIntrye finished with 16 saves between the pipes for Rochester in his Amerks debut.
Eric Tangradi (1+1), Bryan Lerg (1+1), and Brian Gibbons (0+2) paved the way offensively for the Penguins, each contributing two points in the victory. Niko Dimitrakos and Colin McDonald also scored for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, while Thiessen turned away 29 of 30 Amerks shots directed his way to help the Pens to their first win of the season.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton quickly jumped out to a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the opening period, as Tangradi took advantage of a turnover by the Amerks defense after a strong forecheck. Tangradi was able to track down a dump-in and intercept an errant breakout pass, allowing him to walk to the net from the bottom of the right face-off circle and beat Amerks netminder MacIntyre with a nifty forehand deke.
The Penguins doubled their lead in the closing minutes of the period at 18:04, finishing off a strong offensive zone shift. After extensively maintaining puck possession down low, the puck made its way out to defenseman Strait at the left point. Strait then fired a seeing-eye wrister that found its way through traffic over the glove of MacIntyre, who never appeared to track it. Gibbons and Cody Chupp assisted on what was Strait’s first goal of the year.
Wilkes-Barre extended its lead to 3-0 just 2:20 into the middle frame, when McDonald finished off a 3-on-2 oddman rush with his linemates. As the Penguins gained the offensive zone, Lerg sent a pass ahead to Philip Samuelsson, who quickly found McDonald crashing the weak side post for a tap-in goal.
The Penguins tallied their fourth consecutive goal of the contest with 1:12 remaining in the middle period, while playing at a two-man disadvantage. After a flurry of desperation saves by Thiessen, Lerg blocked an attempted slapper by Kassian in the high slot and was off to the races. Kassian was able to get a piece of Lerg’s stick just as he shot, however it wasn’t enough to prevent the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton winger from shoveling the puck between MacIntyre’s five-hole for his second point of the night.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton lit the lamp once again 3:17 into the third period for a 5-0 cushion, as Dimitrakos cashed-in a rebound goal off the rush. After gaining entry into the Rochester zone down the right boards, Gibbons sent the puck to the near post, and following a MacIntyre denial of a slick between-the-legs deflection by Tangradi, Dimitrakos was left alone at the opposite side of the net to slam home the rebound for his second goal of the season.
Rochester finally got on the board to make it 5-1 with just 3:33 remaining in regulation time, as Foligno buried his first professional goal, set up by Kassian on the power-play. Drifting into the middle of the slot, Foligno received a backhand pass from Kassian out of the corner and deposited it behind the Penguins netminder. Turnbull also picked up an additional assist on the play.
The Amerks will be in Cleveland on Friday night when they meet the Lake Erie Monsters on the road for the first of six get-togethers this season. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena and can be heard live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. Rochester is 10-15-2 all-time against the Colorado Avalanche’s affiliate.