Johan Larsson scored twice and Rasmus Ristolainen added two assists as the Rochester Americans opened up their four-game trek through the Midwest Division with a 4-2 win over the Iowa Wild Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The win improves Rochester to 28-18-3-4 on the season and marks the 13th win in the last 17 games for the Amerks, who also extended their point streak to five games.
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Mark Pysyk and Luke Adam also found the back of the net for the Amerks, while second-year goaltender Nathan Lieuwen stopped 21 of 23 shots in his fifth straight start between the pipes. Phil Varone also finished with two assists, while Kevin Porter, Jamie Tardif and Joel Armia also collected an assist in the win for Rochester, which completed the two-game sweep over Iowa.
Zack Phillips and Tyler Graovac provided the scoring for the Wild and Johan Gustafsson made 31 saves in the losing effort for the hometown Wild.
The Amerks dominated the opening 20 minutes of the contest, outshooting the Wild 11-8 and scoring on its first two power-play opportunities to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Larsson, a former second-round pick of the Minnesota Wild, first delivered early for Rochester when his attempted pass through the goal-mouth caromed off an Iowa defenseman and through the legs of Gustafsson for his 10th of the season 4:03 into the first period. Porter earned an assist on the play with Ristolainen picking up his first of two helpers of the game.
Rochester’s power-play would strike again later in the frame as Pysyk’s slap-shot from the top of the right circle found the upper corner to make it a 2-0 game. Working the puck from low to high, Ristolainen drifted off the left half-wall and sent a cross-ice pass to a wide-open Pysyk, who was stationed in the high slot. Pysyk, after accepting the pass in stride, shifted off the blueline and stepped into a blast that sailed past a screened Gustafsson for the defenseman’s first goal of the season at 13:13.
The Amerks carried over the momentum into the second period and were able to generate some quality scoring chances, including a back-to-back tries from Adam and Armia, who both had their attempts denied by the iron of the left post.
The rest of the period proved to be a goaltending duel between Lieuwen and Gustafsson and Rochester nearly took the two-goal advantage into the intermission until Phillips tallied late to bring Iowa within a goal. Carson McMillan carried the puck into the Amerks zone along the left wing boards and drove wide to the net looking to stuff a shot inside the post. Lieuwen, however, wedged himself up against the post to deny the initial attempt, but the rebound kicked out to the low slot, where Phillips grabbed the loose puck and flipped it past the Rochester netminder with just 37 seconds remaining in the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Larsson restored the two-goal lead for Rochester midway through the third period with his second goal of the night, cleaning up a Tardif rebound to put the Amerks ahead 3-1 at 9:26. Larsson’s 11th goal of the season was also assisted by Varone and gives the second-year forward 23 points (9+14) over his last 19 games since being reassigned to Rochester on Jan. 11.
The Wild countered again later at 17:45 of the final frame as Graovac skated into the Rochester zone and wristed a shot over the right shoulder of Lieuwen to trim Rochester’s lead to 3-2. With over a minute remaining in regulation, Iowa pulled Gustafsson in favor of an extra attacker, but an empty-netter by Adam with 12.9 seconds left would prevent Iowa’s comeback bid and secure the 4-2 win for the Amerks.
The Amerks get right back to work on Friday, Feb. 28 as they face off against the red-hot Chicago Wolves at Allstate Arena. The 8:30 p.m. EST matchup will be the second and final meeting between the two teams this season and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK courtesy of Chicago’s The U-Too TV Network.