The Rochester Americans rallied from a two-goal deficit and came out on top in a marathon 15-round shootout to defeat the Lake Erie Monsters by a score of 4-3 at The Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. The victory, which came in front of 5,398 fans, extended the Amerks’ winning streak to three games.
“I thought we got stronger as the game went on and then in the third it went back-and-forth as far as momentum goes,” said Head Coach Ron Rolston. “We had that span there (in the second period) when we popped a couple of goals and that really swung the momentum to our side, which really helped the energy on our bench.”
Phil Varone assisted on all three Rochester goals in the contest, all of which were scored by defensemen. T.J. Brennan scored twice while Brayden McNabb also contributed a goal and an assist. David Leggio was strong in goal once again, finishing with 22 saves. In the shootout, Leggio stopped 13 of 15 Lake Erie shooters as Varone, Marcus Foligno, and Igor Gongalsky lit the lamp. Gongalsky’s tally was the deciding goal in the 15th round.
Evan Brophey, Eric Hunter and Ryan Stoa each scored a goal for Lake Erie in regulation, with Hunter and Justin Mercier also finding the back of the net in the shootout. Netminder Gerald Coleman turned away 24 of 27 shots in regulation and overtime stopped 12 of Rochester’s 15 shooters in the shootout.
The Monsters took a 1-0 lead 7:12 into the opening period when Brophey netted his team-leading 15th goal of the season. Greg Mauldin circled the net and centered the puck for Brophey, who one-touched it into the empty side.
Lake Erie doubled its advantage to 2-0 at 11:19 of the second period, as Hunter made his way out from behind the Rochester net and squeaked a backhander between Leggio’s pad and the post.
The Amerks responded within three minutes with a pair of goals to even the score at two apiece. First, Brennan blasted a one-timer from the right circle to the top shelf on the power-play at 12:50. Just 44 seconds later, McNabb buried a centering pass from Evan Rankin in the slot.
Brennan scored his second of the night to give Rochester its first lead at 5:43 of the final period. After Varone’s initial bid from the top of the left circle was denied by Coleman, Brennan, who had crept in from the right point, was there to put home the rebound.
The Monsters fought back to knot things up at three midway through the third when Stoa deposited a Brad Malone feed off the rush past Leggio.
With neither team able to capitalize on their opportunities over the remainder of regulation or overtime, the game was ultimately decided in the shootout when Gongalsky won it for Rochester in the 15th round.
The Amerks open up the month of March on the road on Friday, March 2 when they travel to Van Andel Arena to take on the North Division rival Grand Rapids Griffins. The 7 p.m. contest will be the fifth of six scheduled meetings this season between the two teams and will be broadcast live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.