Despite falling behind early, the Rochester Americans erupted for four unanswered goals before cruising to a 5-2 victory over the North Division rival Hamilton Bulldogs in front of 7,743 fans Friday at The Blue Cross Arena. The win snaps a brief two-game skid for the Amerks, who have now won three of their last five games and improved to 18-14-2-1 overall on the season.
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Four different Amerk players recorded two-point games, including Brian Flynn (1+1), Kevin Porter (0+2), Zemgus Girgensons (0+2) and Luke Adam (0+2), while the line of Flynn, Adam and Nick Tarnasky combined for a game-high five points (2+3). Mark Mancari, T.J. Brennan and Brayden McNabb rounded out the scoring for the Amerks in front of a 17-save effort from goaltender David Leggio, who’s won five of his last eight starts and improved to 5-0-0 against Hamilton this season.
Jason DeSantis and Gabriel Dumont provided the scoring for Hamilton, while starting goaltender Robert Mayer turned aside 23 shots in the losing effort as the Bulldogs, who were held to just 19 shots, fall to 13-19-1-3.
Hamilton took a 1-0 lead on the power-play just 2:12 into the contest as newcomer DeSantis scored his first goal in a Bulldog uniform. After a high-sticking penalty to Alex Biega gave the Bulldogs the man-advantage, DeSantis, who was reassigned to Hamilton from San Antonio earlier in the week, ripped a shot from the point that found its way through traffic and past a screened Leggio. Nathan Beaulieu and Joey Tenute, who was also playing in his first game with the Bulldogs, assisted on DeSantis’s third of the season.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as the Amerks retaliated with their first of four straight goals just 54 seconds later with a power-play tally of their own to even things up at one apiece. Girgensons beat his defender to a loose puck deep in the Hamilton zone and made a diving effort to get it over to a streaking Flynn, who one-touched it to the back of the net. The goal, his 12th of the season, gives the first-year pro three in his last four games and seven points (4+3) in six games against the Bulldogs this season. Porter also earned his first of two assists on the play.
Brennan’s team-leading 13th goal of the season at 16:09 of the first period gave Rochester its first lead of the game. Biega, stationed just inside the Hamilton blueline along the right wing boards, made a perfect cross-ice pass to Brennan, who moved into the left circle and unleashed a blast to the left corner over the shoulder of Mayer to put the Amerks up 2-1. The goal extends Brennan’s current point streak to four games as he moved within five goals of tying the franchise record for most goals scored by a defenseman in a single season.
Rochester carried the momentum right into the second period as Mancari poked in Girgensons’ goal-mouth rebound to make it a 3-1 game just 55 seconds into the middle frame. Porter set up Girgensons in the low slot, but Mayer couldn’t react to the bouncing puck, allowing Mancari to sweep the rebound past the sprawled Hamilton netminder. With his second assist of the night, Porter now shows eight points (1+7) through his last five outings, including three multi-point showings in that span.
The offensive onslaught continued eight minutes later as Tarnasky capitalized on a centering feed from Adam to give the Amerks a three-goal cushion at 8:58. After taking a pass from Flynn at the left half-wall, Adam turned and sent an offer through the low slot, where Tarnasky chipped it over the outstretched glove of Mayer for a 4-1 score. Adam and Flynn each recorded their second points of the game with the assists.
Dumont answered for the Bulldogs just 11 seconds into the final frame with his team-leading 12th goal of the campaign to cut the deficit in half, but McNabb converted on his second opportunity at the 6:21 mark to give Rochester the 5-2 win.
Rochester closes out the weekend on Saturday, Jan. 12 as the Amerks travel to Syracuse for a rematch with the Crunch at the War Memorial at Oncenter. The 7:30 p.m. matchup will be the fourth of 10 get-togethers between the intrastate rivals this season and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK. The game will also be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel 98.