Joonas Nattinen broke a 2-2 tie midway through the third period and the Hamilton Bulldogs held on for a 3-2 win over the Rochester Americans tonight at Copps Coliseum. Rochester has now dropped two straight, but maintain its second-place standing in the American Hockey League’s North Division.
Derek Whitmore and Colin Stuart each scored single goals for the Amerks, who also saw a two-point effort from forward Mark Voakes. Former Bulldog Drew MacIntyre made 25 saves on 28 shots in his first game back with the Amerks since an NHL stint with the Buffalo Sabres.
Three different goal scorers found the back of net for Hamilton, while Nathan Lawson turned aside 23 saves for the Bulldogs, who snapped their season-long six-game losing streak.
Whitmore gave Rochester an early 1-0 lead with his team-leading 11th goal of the season 4:47 into the opening frame on a goal-mouth deflection. Just seconds after their first power-play opportunity expired, the Amerks maintained their offensive zone pressure as Voakes collected the loose puck along the right half-wall and sent a cross-ice pass to Alex Biega at the left point. With the teams now at full strength, Biega, using the net-front traffic as a screen, released a quick shot from his post on the blueline toward the Hamilton net, where Whitmore was able to get a piece of it before crossing the goal line. The goal was Whitmore’s sixth in his last three games.
Hamilton would respond late in the period with a pair of goals 71 seconds apart to erase its one-goal deficit, starting with Mike Blunden’s second goal of the season at 18:46. After a defensive zone turnover behind the Rochester net, Gabriel Dumont crept in from the right corner and feathered a pass through the high slot to Blunden, who boomed a shot over the glove of MacIntyre to give the Bulldogs their first goal in over 78 minutes.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to 2-1 with just three seconds left in the first period as Mark Mitera swept in Phil DeSimone’s rebound from the right-wing circle for his first of the season. Gaining entry into the Rochester zone, Brian Willsie left the puck along the left-wing boards for DeSimone, but after MacIntyre denied his initial shot, the rebound caromed out to the right face-off circle, where Mitera sent a nifty backhand under the crossbar to give Hamilton its first lead of the game.
Colin Stuart knotted the game at two apiece late in the second stanza after converting on a pass from newcomer Evan Rankin that resulted in the team captain’s eighth goal of the season. As Voakes led the rush into the Hamilton zone, he found Rankin streaking up the middle, who then slid a pass to Stuart, enabling the veteran forward to beat Lawson with a low shot just inside the right post. Voakes, who earned his second point of the night on the goal, now shows four points in his last two games and has assists in three straight games.
The Bulldogs would regain the lead, however, again capitalizing on a defensive breakdown in the Amerks zone as Nattinen slipped the puck behind an unsuspecting MacIntyre. After an attempted outlet pass from the left corner failed to clear the zone, Nattinen jumped on the resulting turnover and tucked the game-winner through the legs of MacIntyre for his second goal of the season at 9:16 of the final frame.
The Amerks play their third game in as many nights on Sunday, December 4 as they visit the state’s Capital District for a rematch with the Albany Devils at 4:00 p.m. at the Times Union Center. Rochester skated to a 4-2 win over Albany in the previous matchup with its intrastate rival this past Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena, marking its first-ever home win against the Devils. Fans can tune in for the live broadcast on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.