The Rochester Americans closed out their three-game road trip through Texas in a big way on Sunday as they defeated the Houston Aeros, a team tied for the most points in the entire American Hockey League, by a 6-3 score. The Amerks got goals from six different players in the win while Derek Whitmore and Jacob Lagace led the way with two points apiece.
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After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, the Amerk offense exploded, scoring the game’s next five goals and taking a 5-1 lead into the second intermission. Rochester then weathered a third period charge by Houston and came away with a 6-3 win. In addition to Whitmore and Lagace scoring, T.J. Brennan, Alex Biega, Travis Turnbull and Maxime Legault also tallied goals for the Amerks. David Leggio got the start in goal and stopped 25 of 28 shots to earn his eighth victory of the season. With Sunday’s win, Rochester finished its Texas swing with a 1-1-1-0 record.
Whitmore’s goal was his team-leading 13th of the season while Brennan’s goal extended his point streak to four games, giving the defenseman five points (2+3) in that span. Mark Voakes also picked up an assist and, along with Whitmore, finished with a game-high +4 rating.
Houston’s Cody Almond gave the Aeros a 1-0 lead at 15:43 of the first period as he took a feed from Jon DiSalvatore from the left half-wall and snuck a low shot over the left pad of Leggio. After Justin Fontaine secured possession for Houston at the left point, DiSalvatore found Almond stationed in the low slot for his third goal of the season.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as Rochester answered back just over a minute later with Whitmore’s 13th goal of the season at 16:51. Voakes’ shot from the top right circle through traffic caromed to the left flank, and with Houston netminder Matt Hackett already down for the initial shot, Whitmore swept the puck into the wide open net to knot the game at one. The goal would be Whitmore’s first since Dec. 9, with the lone assist on the play going to Voakes.
The Amerks took their first lead of the game with just 26 seconds left in the opening frame as Brennan finished an impressive end-to-end rush with his fifth goal of the campaign, giving the third-year blueliner goals in back-to-back games for the second time this season. Lagace jumped on Houston’s offensive zone turnover deep in the Amerks zone and fed Brennan with a pass streaking up the right wing boards. Brennan swiftly maneuvered through the neutral zone, eluded another attacker with a cut to the center of the ice and fired a shot under the glove of Hackett to make it a 2-1 game. The only assist on the goal would go to Lagace.
Rochester carried its momentum into the early stages of the second stanza on a great individual effort from Biega, whose backhander just 46 seconds in would give the Amerks a 3-1 cushion. As Biega moved from his spot on the blueline down to the right corner to apply pressure, he stripped the puck from Houston’s Harrison Reed, darted to the net and sent a nifty backhand over Hackett’s left shoulder. The goal, which was unassisted, was Biega’s second of the season.
Another offensive zone miscue by the Aeros would lead to Rochester’s fourth straight goal as Lagace became the beneficiary of a breakaway opportunity against Hackett, who recently returned from an NHL stint with the Minnesota Wild. As Houston defenseman Chay Genoway attempted a lateral pass down the blueline to Joel Broda, Whitmore intervened with the steal and sprung Lagace free as he threaded a stretch pass up the middle. Lagace finished the play with a nifty deke to his forehand for his seventh goal of the season.
Turnbull extended Rochester’s lead to 5-1 as he picked the top right corner from the high slot with an unassisted goal at 16:52, his third of the season and the third for the Amerks in the second period. Turnbull collected the puck near the center faceoff dot as a result of an errant pass, skated into the Houston zone and launched a shot under the crossbar that would chase Hackett to the bench in favor of Darcy Kuemper.
Houston climbed back to within two early in the third period as DiSalvatore and Reed each found the back of net for the Aeros, beginning with DiSalvatore’s 10th tally of the season just 54 seconds in on the power-play. Reed would then take advantage of a goal-mouth scramble just minutes later, knocking in a loose puck moments before the net was dislodged from its moorings. Former Amerk Jeff Taffe would earn assists on both Houston goals, giving him two points on the night. That would be as close as Houston would get, however, as Maxime Legault tacked on an empty-net goal late in the final period to seal Rochester’s 6-3 win.
The Amerks travel back to Rochester to host the Lake Erie Monsters at The Blue Cross Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 21 before getting a brief holiday break. It will be just the second meeting of the season between the teams and first since Oct. 14 in Cleveland, where the Amerks earned their first victory of the season. Wednesday’s contest will be carried on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk and will also be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsNet Channel 26.