The Rochester Americans erased an early 2-0 deficit en route to a 4-3 shootout victory over the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night at the Onondaga County War Memorial at Oncenter. The win, which came in the fourth straight contest that extended beyond regulation play for Rochester, gives the Amerks 75 points to bump them back into a playoff position.
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Phil Varone and Evan Rankin each contributed a goal and an assist for Rochester, with Varone also scoring the lone goal in the shootout. Paul Szczechura potted the other tally in regulation play for the Amerks and Alex Biega chipped in a pair of assists from the back-end. Between the pipes, David Leggio made 31 saves and denied all five shooters faced in the skills competition in his 13th straight start.
For Syracuse, Troy Bodie produced two assists, while Riley Holzapfel, Ryan O’Marra and Rich Schofield all found the back of the net in regulation. Netminder Igor Bobkov turned away 32 shots in the losing effort.
The Crunch netted a pair of goals just 30 seconds apart early in the opening period to establish a quick 2-0 advantage. First, Holzapfel slammed home a cross-ice pass from Brandon McMillan from inside the right-circle at the 4:07 mark. O’Marra then finished off a well executed three-on-two line rush, beating Leggio with a high wrister from the middle of the slot at 4:37.
Varone got Rochester on the board to cut its deficit to 2-1 within the first minute of play in the middle frame. The club’s leading point-getter carried the puck through the neutral zone and over the Syracuse zone before making a nice cut move into the slot and sending a wrister past Bobkov. Varone now shows four points (1+3) over his last three games.
Rankin buried his 10th goal of the season to knot things up at two, as he was able to locate a loose puck out of a net-mouth scramble and jam it over the goal-line at 9:41.
Szczechura gave the Amerks their first lead of the night by a score of 3-2 with less than five minutes remaining in the second. Stationed at the top of the crease, Szczechura deflected home Biega’s left-point slapper for his 17th of the season.
Syracuse tied the game 3-3 1:51 into the third period, when Schofield converted a rebound effort. After Luca Caputi had two shots from the slot denied by Leggio, Schofield was there to knock in the third point-blank attempt.
With neither team able to settle the score in overtime, the contest went to a shootout in which Varone’s nifty backhand maneuver in the second round held up as the winning goal.
The Amerks wrap up their Eastern Conference swing with an 11:30 a.m. matinee with the Albany Devils on Wednesday, March 28 at the Times Union Center in the Capital District. The game will be the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season and will be broadcast live on WBER 90.5 FM.