Kevin Porter scored twice on the power-play to bring the Rochester Americans within a goal, but it wasn’t enough as the Amerks couldn’t complete the comeback and dropped a 4-2 decision to the Rockford IceHogs Tuesday at BMO Harris Bank Center. With the loss, Rochester falls to 28-20-4-4 on the season and closes out its four-game Midwest road swing with a 1-2-1-0 record.
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Porter scored his 11th and 12th of the season, both coming on the power-play in the third period, to help the Amerks rally from being down 3-0 and Nathan Lieuwen finished with 25 saves in the loss, marking the first time the netminder allowed three goals or more since Feb. 16. Brayden McNabb, Joel Armia and Rasmus Ristolainen all recorded assists for the Amerks, who despite the loss, have collected points in six of their last eight games and have won 13 of their last 20.
Jeremy Morin, Patrick Mullane, Terry Broadhust and Brandon Mashinter all notched goals for the IceHogs, while veteran goaltender Jason LaBarbera posted a 32-save effort en route to his 12th win of the season.
Rockford controlled the early stages of the contest and used heavy offensive pressure to keep the Amerks hemmed in their own zone before scoring twice in a span of 52 seconds to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Morin, the reigning CCM/AHL Player of the Month for February, opened the scoring for the IceHogs with his team-leading 22nd goal of the season at 6:23 of the first period. Pierre-Marc Bouchard attacked the Rochester zone from center ice, but was soon stood up at the blueline with a solid body check from Amerks defenseman Mark Pysyk. Morin, who was skating parallel to Bouchard along the left wing boards, swooped in to grab the loose puck, eluded another Rochester defender and snapped a quick shot through Lieuwen’s legs to make it a 1-0 game and extend his point streak to an AHL-best 13 games.
The IceHogs increased their lead to a pair just under a minute later as Mullane, back in Rockford after a recent recall from ECHL Toledo, finished off a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play. Phillip Danault circled out of the left corner and made a centering feed to Brad Mills streaking in from the right side. Mills caught the pass at the top of the crease, and after drawing the attention of the Rochester defense, left it for a trailing Mullane, who fired it home to put Rockford in front heading into the first intermission.
With 5:06 gone in the middle frame, Broadhurst put the game out of reach for Rockford when he capitalized on a turnover deep in the Amerks zone. Alex Broadhurst placed a shot on goal from outside the blueline nearing the end of his shift. Lieuwen made the easy stop, but in an effort to get the puck out of harm’s way, attempted to shovel it to the near corner. The clearing attempt, however, caromed off a nearby Chad Ruhwedel, and Terry, the older of the Broadhursts, was there to swat it into the empty net to give Rockford a 3-0 cushion.
The third period saw the teams combine for 18 penalty minutes, including 10 from the Amerks, but Rochester would soon take advantage of the AHL’s worst penalty kill with back-to-back strikes from Porter.
Porter’s first of the game came at 5:27 of the final frame when McNabb sprung the veteran forward free with a quick release pass through center ice and Porter used a Rockford defenseman as a screen to send a wrister past LaBarbera to make it 3-1. Then, over six minutes later and Rochester again working the man-advantage, Porter brought the Amerks within a tally as his wrist shot from the top of the right circle found the upper corner for his second of the night and 12th of the season.
It would be as close as Rochester would get, though, as the Amerks took three consecutive penalties over the game’s final five minutes before Mashinter sealed the win for Rockford with an empty-netter with just 11 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Amerks return home from their Midwest swing on Friday, March 7 when they host the defending Eastern Conference champion Syracuse Crunch in the first leg of a home-and-home series at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the fifth of eight scheduled meetings between the intrastate rivals this season and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK.