Brayden McNabb tallied a goal and two assists and Kevin Porter scored twice for the second time in four games to pace the Rochester Americans in a 6-1 drubbing of the Utica Comets Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The win, Rochester’s third straight at home and the third in its last four games, vaults the Amerks to second place in the North Division at 10-8-2-2. With the victory, the Amerks are now 4-2-0-0 against the rival Comets so far this season.
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Phil Varone and Jamie Tardif each added two assists on the night, and Chad Ruhwedel, Nick Crawford and Kevin Sundher each scored for the Amerks. Mike Zigomanis, Matt Ellis, Joel Armia and Matt MacKenzie all finished with an assist, and Matt Hackett was solid in net, allowing just the single goal on 26 Utica shots for his fifth win of the year.
With the two-point effort, Varone maintains his position atop Rochester’s scoring list. The third-year forward now has 23 points in 22 games, including a team-high 18 assists, while Tardif’s two assists extend his point-streak to four games.
Benn Ferriero scored the lone goal for Utica, while Joe Cannata and Joacim Eriksson combined for 20 saves between the pipes.
In his first game since being reassigned to the Amerks earlier in the day after three-game stint with the parent Buffalo Sabres, McNabb made his presence felt early on. With 8:20 remaining in the first period, Zigomanis spun a no-look pass from behind the net up top to McNabb. McNabb gathered the puck, deked around Utica’s Nicklas Jensen and fired a shot over the glove of Cannata for a 1-0 Rochester lead.
The Amerks extended their lead on Porter’s first of the night 7:39 into the second period, when Crawford dropped an aerial pass into the Utica zone for Porter, whose shot picked the corner on Cannata for a two-goal advantage.
Just 2:05 later, Armia drifted into the Utica zone and delivered a strong pass to a cutting Porter. The veteran forward accepted the pass in his skates, and his backhand-to-forehand maneuver fooled Cannata for a 3-0 Rochester edge. That goal would spell the end for Cannata, who was relieved by Eriksson after stopping 10 shots on 13 attempts.
Utica brought the game within two scores late in the middle frame on the power-play, when Ferriero ripped a one-timer off the post and in past Hackett. That would be the closest the Comets would get as Rochester reeled off three unanswered goals in the first 2:21 of the final frame, including two on the power-play.
The Amerks struck just 10 seconds into the third period, as Sundher buried Ellis’ rebound from his knees to provide a 4-1 upper-hand for the hosts. Less than a minute after Sundher’s goal, Rochester drew two quick penalties for a five-on-three advantage, and the Amerks quickly put the game out of reach.
Just eight seconds into the two-man power-play, Ruhwedel wristed a knuckling shot that took an advantageous bounce off a defenseman’s head and into the net. Still up a man 2:21 into the third period, the Amerks scored their sixth goal and final goal when Varone wired a cross-ice pass to Crawford, who in-turn zipped a quick shot past Eriksson to put the stamp on the 6-1 victory.
Rochester makes its way west on Friday, Dec. 6 for the first of back-to-back tilts against the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena. The 7:00 p.m. contest will be the second of just four meetings this between the interconference rivals and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK.