Rochester Americans rookie forward Phil Varone scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner, and David Leggio made a season-high 44 saves to power the Amerks to a 3-2 win over the defending Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators tonight at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. The win improves Rochester (16-13-4-2) to 3-1-0-0 this season against the B-Sens as it has now collected points in six of its last seven games.
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The two-goal effort was the first multi-goal game for Varone, who also extended his point streak to six games. The game also featured the return of forward Zack Kassian and defenseman T.J. Brennan, who were reassigned to Rochester earlier this morning. Kassian made an immediate impact in his first game back in the lineup, assisting on Varone’s first goal of the game and finishing with a +1 rating.
Andre Petersson (1+1) and Corey Locke (0+2) each notched two points for the Senators, who also received a 25-save performance from goaltender Mike McKenna in the losing effort.
The Amerks took a 1-0 lead at 13:57 of the first period with a power-play goal from Varone, who became the lucky recipient off a goal-mouth scramble. With Binghamton’s Corey Cowick sitting two minutes for slashing, Kassian darted to the net from the left corner looking to sneak a shot in on the short-side, but a poke check from McKenna denied Kassian the scoring chance.
The puck would make its way to Varone stationed to the left of the crease and the rookie forward finished the play flipping a shot over a sprawled McKenna for his fourth goal of the season. With the goal, Varone has now found the back of the net in three straight games and extends his point streak to a career-best six games. Kassian, playing his first game back in an Amerks uniform since November 19, earned the lone assist on the play.
Binghamton’s Rob Klinkhammer evened the game up at one midway through the middle frame as he converted on his own rebound for his team-leading 12th goal of the season. After gaining entry into the Rochester zone along the left wing boards, Klinkhammer sent a shot on goal only to be knocked down by Leggio. The rebound, however, would fortunately land on his stick and Klinkhammer, facing no defensive pressure, skated across the net-front uncontested and put a nifty backhander under the crossbar at the 10:00 mark. Petersson and Locke each earned assists on the goal.
Igor Gongalsky gave the Amerks a 2-1 lead just 1:06 into the final frame with a shorthanded breakaway goal. Maxime Legault capitalized on an offensive turnover and sent an outlet pass to Gongalsky, who tucked the puck through the legs of McKenna for his first goal as an Amerk. The goal comes a night after Gongalsky helped set up Legault’s shorthanded tally at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday night. Gongalsky, with the Amerks on a professional tryout, now shows points in back-to-games for the first time this season.
The B-Sens would rally again just over five minutes later as Petersson deflected Eric Gryba’s shot from the right point for his 10th goal of the campaign and second point of the night to make it a 2-2 game. Locke would also record his second point of the night with an assist on the goal at 6:13.
The game would remain tied for the next 2:14 until Varone’s second goal of the game would help Rochester reclaim a 3-2 advantage at 8:27. After a great individual effort by defenseman Joe Finley to keep the puck in the zone, he delivered a blast from his post on the left point through the slot, where Varone was able to get his stick on it before it crossed the goal line. Finley would get the only assist on the goal, which proved to be the game-winner.
Rochester appeared to double its lead to 4-2 minutes later, but referee Ryan Murphy waved the goal off due to Travis Turnbull’s incidental contact with McKenna.
The B-Sens nearly tied the game in the waning minutes of the final frame, but a solid penalty-kill by the Amerks, who were down two men, and an impervious Leggio, who came up with several keys saves late in the game, thwarted any comeback attempts from a desperate Binghamton team.
The oldest rivalry in the American Hockey League will be renewed on Sunday, January 8 as Rochester collides with the Hershey Bears at Giant Center in the first of two gatherings between the league’s oldest teams this season. The 5:00 p.m. contest marks the 443rd regular season meeting in league history between the AHL’s cornerstone franchises and will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk. The Amerks are 184-205-53 all-time against the Bears after splitting the 2010-11 season series with a 2-2-0-0 mark with Hershey.