The Rochester Americans dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Abbotsford Heat in the back-end of a two-game set between the interconference rivals on Wednesday night at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. Despite the loss, Rochester managed to salvage a point for the sixth time in the last nine outings and moved to within one point of the eighth and final playoff spot in the AHL’s Western Conference.
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Evan Rankin (1+1) and Phil Varone (0+2) each contributed a pair of points for the Amerks, while Derek Whitmore and Colin Stuart also found the back of net. David Leggio turned away 31 of 35 shots faced in his 18th consecutive start between the pipes for Rochester, who saw its winless streak reach five games.
Krys Kolanos scored a goal and added two assists to lead the way offensively for Abbotsford, who also received goals from Dustin Sylvester, Roman Horak and Ben Walter. Netminder Danny Taylor finished with 29 saves in the winning effort, earning his 19th win of the campaign.
After a scoreless opening period, the Heat got on the board 4:13 into the middle frame for a 1-0 lead. Kolanos got behind the Rochester defense and accepted a stretch pass from Brian Connelly that sent him in alone to beat Leggio with a high wrister to the glove side.
A shorthanded goal from Rankin less than four minutes later evened the score at one apiece for Rochester. Off the rush, Varone feathered the puck toward Rankin, who was driving the net and deflected the pass over the glove of Taylor.
The Amerks took their first lead of the night at the 11:30 mark of the second, as Whitmore buried his team-leading 27th goal of the season. Rankin found Whitmore in the low slot with a pass out of the right corner, and the fourth-year pro wasted no time in depositing it into the open side. The tally matches Whitmore’s career-high total of 27, which he set last season with the Portland Pirates, while Rankin picked up his 100th professional assist on the play.
The Heat knotted things up 2-2 just 34 seconds into the third period, as Sylvester potted the rebound of a Connelly point shot at the top of the crease.
Abbotsford capitalized on an odd-man rush to regain the lead by a score of 3-2 at 9:46 of the third. Bancks drove wide into the offensive zone before sending a cross-crease pass to Horak for an easy tap-in goal.
Rochester battled back to tie the game once again with 5:39 remaining in regulation when Stuart found a loose puck in the slot after a broken play and sent a wrist shot through Taylor.
Walter scored the game-winning goal at 2:19 of overtime, finishing off a slick rush and feed from Kolanos to give Abbotsford the win.
Rochester continues its four-game road swing on Saturday, April 7 as the Amerks make their way to Copps Coliseum in southern Ontario for their final confrontation with the Hamilton Bulldogs. The 7:35 p.m. North Division contest will be the 10th and final meeting between the two teams this season and will be carried live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.