Dustin Tokarski made 19 saves in net and Justin Courtnall scored the eventual game-deciding goal early in the second period as the Hamilton Bulldogs held on to defeat the Rochester Americans 2-1 Friday night in front of a crowd of 8,124 at The Blue Cross Arena. With the loss, the Amerks have now dropped three of their last four games since the turn of the New Year and fall to 14-14-3-3 on the season.
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Prior to the game, the Amerks inducted former captain and longtime defenseman Mike Hurlbut into the Hall of Fame. Hurlbut, who became the 55th member of the exclusive club, is the longest-tenured captain in the storied history of the Amerks, having worn the “C” during all five of his seasons in Rochester (1997-98 to 2001-02) while leading the team to multiple appearances in the Calder Cup Finals. The defenseman appeared in 288 games with the Amerks and recorded 167 points on 44 goals and 123 assists to rank tied for fifth all-time in points and 11th in games played among Rochester defensemen. In four of his five seasons with the Amerks, Hurlbut either held or shared the team lead in points by a blueliner.
Rookie forward Dan Catenacci scored his fourth goal of the season late in the third period to cut Rochester’s deficit in half, with Tim Schaller and Joel Armia drawing assists on the lone tally. Matt Hackett, making his fourth consecutive start between the pipes, stopped 17 shots in the loss for the Amerks, who finished without a single power-play goal despite 10 man-advantages throughout the contest.
Nathan Beaulieu scored the opening goal for Hamilton, while Louis Leblanc, Sven Andrighetto, and Martin St. Pierre all added assists.
Nearly the entire first six minutes of the opening period were played on special teams, as the Amerks and Bulldogs traded minor penalties. With Schaller in the penalty box for slashing, Hamilton struck with its first goal on a shot from Beaulieu. With a heavy screen in front, Beaulieu fired a shot from the blueline that snuck through Hackett. Hackett reached back with his arm in a last-ditch effort to stop the goal, but the puck had already crossed the goal-line.
The Bulldogs added an insurance goal 6:08 into the second period when Courtnall tipped the puck on net following a shot from the side-boards by Leblanc that eluded Hackett and ended up in the Amerks net.
With 34.8 seconds remaining in the second period, the Amerks appeared to score their first goal of the game on the power-play. Following a wild scrum in front of the net, Nick Tuzzolino gathered the puck and slammed it past Tokarski for the score. However, the play garnered further review, and the goal was eventually waved off due to the puck being kicked into the net.
The Amerks finally broke through with 5:10 remaining in regulation, when Schaller made a drop pass to Armia at Hamilton’s blueline. Armia drove to the corner and delivered a pass to Schaller, who was crashing the net. While Schaller couldn’t convert on the opportunity, Catenacci was standing back-door, and batted the puck out of mid-air and into the net to bring the score to 2-1.
With 40 seconds left in regulation, Hackett vacated the net for the extra attacker, but Tokarski and the Hamilton defense were able to hold off the Amerks for the 2-1 win.
The Amerks and Bulldogs return to action on Saturday, Jan. 11 as the home-and-home series shifts north of the border for a divisional showdown at Copps Coliseum in Southern Ontario. The 7:00 p.m. matchup will be the fifth of eight meetings this season and will be carried live in Rochester on Sports 1280 WHTK.