An overtime goal off the stick of defenseman Brayden McNabb lifted the Rochester Americans to a 6-5 victory over the Syracuse Crunch tonight in dramatic fashion in the second-half of the home-and-home series between the two clubs on Sunday evening at The Blue Cross Arena. McNabb’s tally less than a minute into the sudden-death period came after Paul Szczechura converted the game-tying goal with just 2:04 remaining in regulation.
“There is a lot of pride in that room, and we weren’t happy with the way things went last night,” said Amerks head coach Ron Rolston, whose club has now won two of its last three games. “We had a nice win in Binghamton (on Friday night) and were flat last night, so we wanted to come back and finish the weekend off. We also wanted to be sure to play with a lot of energy in our building and be physical, and I thought for the most part we did a better job tonight than yesterday.”
Rochester was paced offensively by Szczechura, who celebrated his 300th professional game with a two-point effort (1+1). McNabb (1+1), Mark Voakes (2+0), and Zack Kassian (1+1) also contributed two points in the win, while 10 different players recorded at least one point. Travis Turnbull (1+0) also scored for the Amerks and David Leggio finished with 28 saves between the pipes.
For Syracuse, Dan Sexton had a four-point night (1+3) to cap-off a nine point weekend, while Patrick Maroon (1+1) and Mark Bell (0+2) contributed a pair of points apiece. Nicholas Deschamps (1+0) and John Mitchell (1+0) also found the back of the net in the loss. Goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers turned aside 21 of 27 Rochester shots.
The Amerks jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead 50 seconds into the contest as Voakes buried his first goal of the season on a breakaway. After a quick transition pass out of the defensive zone by Alex Biega, Derek Whitmore hit Voakes with a short pass just inside the Syracuse blueline. Voakes then split the defense to go in alone and beat Deslauriers high to the glove side.
A breakaway goal from Sexton evened the score 1-1 for the Crunch at 5:15. The third-year winger sprung in the Rochester zone uncontested after receiving a pass in-stride from Maroon, and deposited a wrister past Amerks netminder Leggio.
Rochester restored its one-goal advantage just 69 seconds later when Kassian converted on the third breakaway chance of the contest in less than seven minutes of play. The rookie winger snuck in behind the Crunch defense before receiving a stretch pass from linemate Colin Stuart, and made no mistake in potting his team-leading fifth goal of the season with a nifty deke to the backhand under the crossbar.
Syracuse once again knotted things up before the conclusion of the opening period with a power-play tally at 12:48 to make it 2-2. After some good puck movement around the perimeter of the offensive zone, Bryan Rodney was the recipient of a cross-ice pass from the right corner to the left face-off dot by Jean-Francois Jacques and sent a shot to the top shelf over a sprawled Leggio.
Turnbull’s first goal of the season exactly two minutes into the middle frame once again spotted the Amerks a one-goal cushion. A good forecheck led to a slick give-and-go between Jacob Lagace and Phil Varone from the left corner to the left circle, and Lagace found Turnbull wide open at the right post for a tap-in goal. Lagace’s assist on the play extended his point streak to three games.
Rochester doubled its lead to 4-2 at 6:54 when Voakes found the back of the net shorthanded on his second breakaway of the evening, marking the Amerks’ first shorthanded tally of the season. McNabb lofted a high backhand from the defensive zone which traveled over the Syracuse defenders and connected in stride with Voakes, who proceeded to beat Deslauriers underneath the arm to the blocker side.
The Crunch battled back less than two minutes later with a pair of goals at 8:27 and 10:13, respectively. First with his team skating at a one-man advantage, Deschamps found himself in alone on Leggio and lit the lamp with a snap-shot to the top corner on the blocker-side. Mitchell then jammed a loose rebound behind the Rochester goaltender, after the initial slapper from the high slot squeaked through his five-hole off a fast rush.
Syracuse then netted its third consecutive goal at 12:32 for its first lead of the tilt as Maroon slammed home the rebound of a point shot through traffic at the right side of the net.
After neither side was able to find the back of the net for over 30 minutes of play, the Amerks tied the game at five with just 2:04 remaining in the third period. Off a face-off deep in the Syracuse zone, Kassian won a puck battle behind the net and centered it to Szczechura, who one-timed the feed past Deslauriers. The goal represented Szczechura’s first of the season and third point in as many games since making his return from off-season knee surgery.
The game-winning overtime goal came immediately after a successful penalty kill by the Amerks, which began with just over a minute to go in regulation. Shawn Szydlowski threaded a long pass to Szczechura in the neutral zone, sending him in on a 2-on-1 with McNabb, who eventually found the puck on his stick and won the game with a wrister that went in off the crossbar.
The Amerks play the second of a season-long five-game homestand when they host the Binghamton Senators on Friday, Nov. 11 at The Blue Cross Arena in a 7:35 p.m. start. It will mark the third time in a five-game span that the Amerks will have faced the defending Calder Cup champions. Friday’s game will be carried live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.