The Rochester Americans scored three times in the second period and added an insurance tally in the third to extend their season-long winning streak to six games with a 4-1 win over the Rockford IceHogs Friday at The Blue Cross Arena. With the win, the Amerks move to 21-15-3-3 on the season and maintain their grip on second place in the North Division.
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Tonight’s matchup was the first in nearly five seasons for the two clubs, who are scheduled to meet again later this season on March 4 in Rockford.
Colton Gillies, Brayden McNabb, Alex Hutchings and Kevin Sundher all scored goals for the Amerks, with Mark Pysyk adding two assists. Tim Schaller, Brayden Irwin and Frederick Roy also finished with an assist and Johan Larsson stretched his scoring streak to six consecutive games with a helper. Matt Hackett turned in a solid performance between the pipes, stopping 23 of 24 shots for the Amerks, who have now won six straight for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign.
Phillipe Lefebvre scored the lone goal for the IceHogs late in the third period and Jason LaBarbera made 29 saves in the losing effort.
The Amerks stifled Rockford’s offensive game for nearly the entire evening. The IceHogs didn’t register their first shot on goal until just under two minutes remaining in the opening period, when Jeremy Morin broke in down the right wing and fired a slap-shot on net that was turned aside by Hackett. Rochester went to the locker room for the first intermission with a 10-1 shots on goal advantage.
Rochester finally cashed in with its first goal 3:52 into the second period, when Brad Winchester coughed up the puck in his own zone right to Gillies, who wasted no time and fired a high shot into the net for a 1-0 Amerks lead.
The red-hot Amerks power-play continued its impressive run over recent weeks with another tally just 1:38 later. McNabb received a pass at the boards from Pysyk, swung into the middle of the ice and deked around a Rockford defender. With nothing between him and the net, McNabb fired a snap-shot through LaBarbera’s arm for his second goal in two games.
With 6:07 on the clock in the second period, Schaller attempted a pass to Hutchings, who was cutting through the middle of the ice, but a Rockford defenseman broke up the play. However, Hutchings managed to get his stick on the puck directing it at the net, and snuck the rebound through LaBarbera’s pads for the Amerks’ third score.
The Amerks had two breakaway opportunities to start the third, one by Larsson and the other by Hutchings, but critical saves by LaBarbera kept it a three-goal game. Following another IceHogs turnover, Irwin took a shot on net that couldn’t be controlled by the Rockford netminder and Sundher took a few swipes before finally breaking through to give Rochester a 4-0 cushion.
With the IceHogs putting on the pressure late in the third, Hackett continued to answer the bell to keep his shutout bid alive, but Lefebvre managed to put Rockford on the board with 7:57 remaining in regulation to bring the score to 4-1.
Rockford called a timeout and pulled Labarbera for the extra attacker in the final minutes, but Hackett shut the door the rest of the way as the Amerks held on for the win.
Rochester opens a busy stretch of four games in eight nights on Saturday, Feb. 1 as the Amerks travel to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza to close out their season series with the East Division Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK.