Despite mounting a second-period comeback that saw the team rally from an early 2-0 deficit, the Rochester Americans opened up the 2012 preseason with a 4-3 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Wednesday night at the Sports Centre at MCC. The game marked the first of a home-and-home series between the two teams, which will conclude on Friday, Oct. 5 at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Appearing in a Rochester uniform for the first time in five years was veteran forward Mark Mancari, who led the Amerks with three assists and finished with a team-high four shots. Rookie blueliner Mark Pysyk also notched a pair of assists in his first dose of professional hockey while reigning team MVP David Leggio turned aside 28 shots in the losing effort.
Leggio was strong in the early goings of the contest, but it was Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Paul Thompson that was finally able to bury the puck past the Rochester netminder on his third whack in front of the net to put the visitors up 1-0.
With only one minute remaining in the first, Cody Hodgson made a great play taking away the puck and slinging it out in front of the net to a waiting Mark Mancari, who promptly shot it into the net. However, prior to the shot, the net became dislodged, causing the play to be whistled dead and the goal to be disallowed.
The second period began similar to the first with Leggio making several key saves leading up to Rochester’s second power-play opportunity. Despite several chances, the Amerks were again held scoreless making them 0-for 2 on the night.
The Penguins increased their lead to 2-0 midway through the second period as Brian Dumoulin took a booming slap-shot from the point. The waiting Jayson Megna pounced on the loose puck and sent it past the sprawled Leggio to put Wilkes-Barre/Scranton up by a pair.
Minutes later, the Penguins’ Joseph Morrow took a holding penalty, and this time was Rochester was able to capitalize on its third man-advantage opportunity. Luke Adam, stationed to the right of the net, corralled Mancari’s shot from the point and slipped the puck just inside the near post to trim the lead to 2-1.
Later in the period, the Amerks’ power-play struck again with just six minutes remaining as second-year forward Phil Varone took a great pass from Pysyk and beat Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff with a low shot to knot the game at two apiece. Mancari also picked up an assist on the play.
The third period saw the teams exchange two quality scoring chances as new Pens goaltender Patrick Killeen was immediately tested by Cody Hodgson as he tried to go high blocker side. Leggio would then thwart Brian Gibbons’ breakaway attempt following a Joe Finley blocked shot.
With only two minutes remaining in the final frame and the teams in a 2-2 deadlock, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Adam Payerl put the Penguins back on top after picking the right corner with a perfectly placed shot from the top of the left circle.
Gibbons would tack on an empty-netter moments before Brayden McNabb found the back of the net with just two seconds left in regulation to make it a 4-3 game.
The same two teams meet again on Friday, Oct. 5 as the home-and-home series shifts to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start.