Rookie defenseman Chad Ruhwedel scored the first two goals of his professional career, including the eventual game-winner, as the Rochester Americans held on to defeat the North Division rival Hamilton Bulldogs 5-3 Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The victory was the second in the last three games for the Amerks, who improve their record to 5-2-1-1 on the young season and have collected points in six straight games.
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Mike Zigomanis scored his fourth goal of the season early in the first period to go along with an assist, while Matt Ellis and Frederick Roy also scored for the Amerks. Matt Hackett made 20 saves in net for his third win of the year. Phil Varone and Alexander Sulzer both added assists to extend their personal point streaks to nine and six games, respectively. Kevin Sundher and Brayden McNabb also assisted for the Amerks.
Joonas Nattinen, Sven Andrighetto and Louis Leblanc scored for Hamilton, as the Bulldogs dropped to 5-3-0-3 this season. Dustin Tokarski made 22 saves in net in the losing effort.
Zigomanis began the scoring for Rochester 3:30 into the opening period to give the Amerks a 1-0 advantage. A slap-shot from the top of the left circle by Sulzer was denied by Tokarski, but the rebound dropped just in time for Zigomanis to jam it home as he was pushed into the net by a Hamilton defender. While initially waved off by referee Ryan Hersey, video review awarded Rochester the goal.
With 2:24 remaining in the first period and the Amerks on the power-play, Ellis grabbed a rebound off a shot from Zigomanis and took two swipes at the puck before putting it past Tokarski to give the Amerks a two-goal cushion.
Another replay situation almost gave the Amerks a 3-0 lead 4:18 into the second period when Alex Hutchings drove to the front of the Hamilton net and took a shot. After the first try was stopped by Tokarski, the puck bounced off Hutchings’ leg and went off the post. Video review confirmed the puck never fully crossed the goal-line, and the Amerks maintained a 2-0 lead.
Rochester would eventually tally its third goal with the two-man advantage 9:49 into the second period, as McNabb made a drop pass to Ruhwedel, whose wrist shot would find its way through to the back of the net.
Hamilton would cut the lead to 3-1 on Andrighetto’s goal with 8:47 remaining in the middle frame, but the Amerks would quickly answer on Ruhwedel’s second score. After intercepting an attempted pass in front of his own net, Ruhwedel would skate the length of the ice and take a seemingly harmless wrist shot just inside the blueline that beat Tokarski for a 4-1 Amerks lead.
Tensions rose early in the third period, as McNabb delivered a big open-ice hit at center ice on Hamilton forward Gabriel Dumont. Hamilton’s Mike Blunden took exception to the hit and dropped the gloves with McNabb, and both players received five-minute majors for fighting. The fight was the second of the game for McNabb and Blunden, as they also squared off just minutes into the first period.
The Bulldogs came roaring back in the final period to bring the game to 4-3 on goals from Nattinen and Leblanc, but could not bury the equalizer past Hackett. Hamilton pulled its goalie with a minute remaining to gain the man-advantage, but Roy added an empty-netter with 42 seconds left in regulation for the fifth and final strike, effectively sealing the win for Rochester.
The Amerks finished with two power-play goals on six opportunities, while blanking Hamilton on their four power-play situations.
Rochester hits the ice again at home on Friday, Nov. 6 for the first leg of a home-and-home series against the intrastate rival Binghamton Senators at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the first of eight get-togethers between the two teams this season and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK.