For the second time in five games, Alex Biega has come up big in the shootout for the Rochester Americans. Facing a 2-0 deficit to the Oklahoma City Barons, the Amerks rallied back with a pair of late goals before completing the comeback with a crucial 3-2 shootout win over their interconference rivals Tuesday night at the Cox Convention Center. The win snaps Rochester’s brief two-game skid and gives the Amerks a three-point separation over the Barons in the Western Conference standings.
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Adam Pardy and Phil Varone each scored in regulation for the Amerks, setting the stage for Biega’s dramatic game-winner in the fifth round of the skills competition. Mark Mancari assisted on both goals to move into fourth in scoring in the AHL with a team-high 57 points (19+38), while Amerks goaltender David Leggio made 30 saves through regulation and overtime before denying all five Oklahoma City shooters in the shootout en route to his AHL-leading 32nd win of the season.
Curtis Hamilton and Anton Lander provided the scoring for the Barons in front of a 31-save effort from Yann Danis, who was playing his first game back in Oklahoma City following a recent three-game NHL stint with the Edmonton Oilers.
It took just 43 seconds after the opening face-off for Oklahoma City to strike first as Hamilton snuck his fourth of the season inside the left post to give the hometown Barons an early 1-0 lead. After chasing down Chris VandeVelde’s dump-in behind the Rochester net, Hamilton circled in front and tucked a shot between the near post and Leggio’s left foot before the Amerks netminder could get across his crease to make the save. Also earning an assist on the play was Andrew Hotham, who appeared in six games with the Amerks in 2010-11.
The second period began in similar fashion to that of the first with Oklahoma City using another quick start, this time needing the first 2:11 of the middle frame to increase its lead to 2-0. An inopportune line change by the Amerks allowed Toni Rajala to skate into the Rochester zone uncontested along the right wing boards. Rajala moved off the half-wall looking to shoot, but instead found Lander streaking in from the left side, giving the Barons a two-goal cushion.
Pardy jumpstarted the rally to bring the Amerks within a goal exactly five minutes later when his blast from the high slot made its way through traffic before finding the upper right corner. Patrick Rissmiller emerged with a loose puck from the right corner and left it for Pardy, who ultimately used a screen from Mancari to beat Danis high glove-side and make it a 2-1 game heading into the second intermission.
Rochester evened the contest 1:08 into the third period as Varone converted Mancari’s pass and sent it to the back of the net for his ninth of the season.
The teams played in lockdown mode for the next 18:52, but exchanged quality scoring chances in the latter stages of the third period with Leggio and Danis coming up with much-needed saves, including several in the overtime period. After a scoreless extra frame, the game went to the shootout, where Leggio stymied all five shooters for the Barons and Biega capped the 3-2 come-from-behind win with the lone goal in the fifth round.
The Amerks play their first of three straight games in the Lone Star State on Friday, March 22 as they face-off against the Texas Stars at the Cedar Park Center. Game time is slated for an 8:30 p.m. EST start and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK.