A pair of power play goals and a strong performance between the pipes by goaltender Drew MacIntyre helped propel the Rochester Americans to a 3-1 victory over the defending Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators at The Blue Cross Arena on Friday night. The win was Rochester’s second straight and third in four games. It also improved the team’s record 6-5-2-1 (15 points) and moves them into first place in the AHL’s North Division.
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The Amerks were led offensively by Zack Kassian (1+1) and Paul Szczechura (0+2), each of whom contributed a pair of points. With two assists, Szczechura has now tallied at least one point in all four games he’s played since making his season debut last Friday, giving him a goal and five assists in that span. Kassian, meanwhile, has recorded a goal and an assist in each of the last two games and leads the Amerks in scoring with 12 points (6+6) on the season. Brayden McNabb and Derek Whitmore also scored for Rochester while MacIntyre finished with 35 saves in the win.
Amerks Head Coach Ron Rolston said he was happy with the way his team responded after trailing 1-0 at the first intermission.
“Early in the game I thought we played well five-on-five, but we didn’t play as smart as we needed to with penalties and how we took care of the puck,” said Rolston. “We wanted to get back to our game (in the second period) and get our feet moving and draw more penalties to put us on the power play, which really helped swing the tempo and momentum.”
Rolston added that he sees the team progressing toward the level at which he expects them to play.
“I think consistency is what we are looking for now,” he said. “We took two out of three last week and won tonight, so now it’s about continuing to execute and being a smarter hockey team. I like the progress that we are making from game to game and we did a lot of things well tonight that we have worked on in practice.”
Rookie forward Andre Petersson tallied the lone goal for the Senators, with the assists going to Mike Hoffman and Pat Cannone. Binghamton goaltender Robin Lehner turned aside 22 of 25 Rochester shots.
The Senators opened up the scoring on the power-play with just 1:33 remaining in the first period as Petersson beat MacIntyre with a wrister from the top of the left circle that found its way through a screen for Petersson’s third goal of the season.
The Amerks evened the score at one apiece just 3:44 into the second period when Whitmore potted his fifth of the season. The play developed as Mark Voakes circled with the puck high at the left point to create time and space before finding Whitmore all alone at the right side of the net, where Whitmore quickly deposited a shot past Lehner.
Kassian’s team-leading sixth goal of the season gave Rochester its first lead of the contest midway through the second period. With the Amerks skating at a man advantage, the 20-year-old rookie made his way out from the left half-wall and let a shot go through traffic that beat Lehner low to the glove side.
The Amerks increased their lead to 3-1 while enjoying a two-man advantage at 2:49 of the third period when McNabb found the back of the net for the second straight game. Szczechura started the play with a feed to Kassian at the left side of the net. Kassian then set up McNabb for a one-timer from the top of the left circle that beat Lehner.
Despite a late push by Binghamton in third period, MacIntyre stood tall in the Rochester crease and stopped all 18 shots sent his way over the final 20 minutes for his second win of the season.
The Amerks get right back to action as they host the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday at The Blue Cross Arena for the second of six meetings this season. The teams last met on Oct. 16 In Rochester, where the Amerks came away with a 7-2 victory. Saturday’s 7:35 p.m. matchup will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.