The Rochester Americans continued their winning ways and earned their first victory on home-ice this season on Sunday evening, defeating the Grand Rapids Griffins by a score of 7-2.
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Rochester saw four players contribute multiple points in the contest led by Colin Stuart (2+1) and Jonathan Parker (1+2) with three, while Derek Whitmore (1+1), Zack Kassian (2+0) and Brayden McNabb (0+2) each chipped in two. Also finding the back of the net for the Amerks in the win were forwards Marcus Foligno and Jacob Lagace. Drew MacIntyre held down the fort between the pipes for his team, finishing with 30 saves which included a right pad save on a penalty shot attempt by Grand Rapids’ Trevor Parkes late in the second period.
“We talked about this being a slow process,” said Head Coach Ron Rolston following his club’s second straight win. “We weren’t happy with our first two games and talked about the pride and character in this room which has led to us responding with two good back-to-back efforts against Lake Erie Friday and then here tonight.” He also added, “I thought we have had a lot more second-effort plays and guys have been playing for each other and through each other in these past two victories.”
When asked to comment on the performance of MacIntyre, Rolston said, “Drew had a lot of second-effort saves and was battling all night and I think that transferred on to our defensive core and forwards.”
Young wingers Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar chipped-in a goal apiece for Grand Rapids in the losing effort, while Chris Connor had two assists. Netminder Jordan Pearce turned away 25 of 32 Rochester shots.
The Amerks struck for two quick goals within 90 seconds of one another as the game approached the midway point of the opening period for a 2-0 advantage. Whitmore opened up the scoring at 7:23 on the power-play, finishing off a well executed line rush into the Grand Rapids zone. After McNabb gained the offensive blueline, he quickly fed Parker, who hit Whitmore with a perfect slap-pass, which the Rochester-native tipped between Pearce’s five-hole. The secondary assist on the play represented McNabb’s first point of his professional career.
Rochester lit the lamp once again less than 90 seconds later, as Foligno was the beneficiary of a strong effort on the forecheck by Parker. Parker tracked down a dump-in to the right corner, knocking the Grand Rapids defenseman off the puck, and then wasted no time in centering the puck to Foligno at the top of the crease, who jammed home his own rebound after having his first try denied by Pearce.
Grand Rapids narrowed its deficit to just 2-1 at 11:53, when Nyquist cashed-in his second goal in as many games. Newcomer forward Chris Conner found Nyquist streaking through the slot from the right face-off dot, and the Swedish-born winger quickly deflected the puck past MacIntyre, who was unable to get across the crease in time to keep the puck out.
Parker then notched his third point of the period with a goal at 16:46 to restore Rochester’s two-goal lead. Upon receiving an 85 foot cross-ice pass from just inside blueline from Stuart off the rush, the 20-year old ripped a one-timed slapper from the left point position into the vacant near side of the net.
The Griffins pulled back to within one 8:22 into the middle frame with a goal off the stick of Tatar. After linemate Connor made his way to the middle of the slot and saw his wrister denied by MacIntyre, Tatar was able to find the loose puck through a maze of bodies and shovel it behind the Rochester goaltender.
The Amerks then once again showed their resiliency, responding with a pair of goals within three minutes of the Griffins second tally from Kassian and Stuart, respectively. Kassian’s goal came after receiving a slick backhand saucer pass in the slot from Mark Voakes off a rush down the right half –wall, which he proceeded to deflect past Pearce to extend his point streak to four games and goal-scoring streak to two games.
Colin Stuart then beat Pearce with a wrister from the high slot that found its way between the goalkeeper’s body and right arm. After defenseman Alex Biega picked-off an attempted breakout pass by the Grand Rapids defense, he immediately sent the puck to Stuart, who made no mistake in netting his second of the year.
Rochester tacked on its third straight goal at 16:06 for a 6-2 lead, as what appeared to be a broken play was resurrected by Shawn Szydlowski. The rookie forward left a drop pass at the hash mark of the right circle for linemate Lagace, who picked the far corner with a quick shot that found its way through traffic and eluded Pearce.
The Amerks lit the lamp one more time in a chippy third period which featured a total of 65 penalty minutes (including misconducts), as Kassian beat Pearce high to the glove side on a breakaway.
Rochester remains at home on Tuesday, October 18 as the Syracuse Crunch venture west down the I-90 to The Blue Cross Arena for the first of 10 encounters this season between the longtime intrastate rivals. The 7:05 p.m. contest can be heard live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.