Spencer Abbott scored his second goal of the game with 44.3 seconds remaining in overtime to lead the visiting Toronto Marlies to a 2-1 win over the Rochester Americans Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena. Despite the loss, however, the Amerks extended their home point streak to a season-long eight straight games and now sit just five points back of the top-ranked Marlies in the North Division race.
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Nathan Lieuwen was rock solid in net for the Amerks, turning aside 38 of Toronto’s 40 shots, including some key stops in the latter stages of the game. Rasmus Ristolainen scored the lone goal for Rochester, with Mike Zigomanis and Kevin Porter each adding assists. The game also featured the Amerks debut of newcomer Nick Petrecki, who earned 19:35 of ice time in his first game in Rochester after being acquired by the Amerks earlier in the week.
Christopher Gibson had 23 saves for the visiting Marlies and Toronto captain Trevor Smith tallied assists on both of Abbott’s goals.
The Marlies needed just 37 seconds after the opening face-off to take a 1-0 lead, as Abbott cruised into the Amerks zone and took a sharp angle shot that snuck through the Rochester netminder.
Toronto’s lead wouldn’t last long, though, as Rochester answered with a power-play goal from Ristolainen at 6:13. After Zigomanis made a nice play at the blueline to keep an attempted clear by the Marlies in the offensive zone, the veteran forward slid the puck over to a waiting Ristolainen, who fired his patented one-timer from the top of the circle past Gibson to knot the score, 1-1.
During a second period that lacked in scoring chances for either side, Lieuwen came up with his highlight-reel save to keep the game square at one. A deep shot in the Amerks zone bounced off the post and out the other side right to Jamie Devane. With Lieuwen practically defenseless, Devane had the entire net to shoot at, but Lieuwen slid across his crease at the last second and flashed his glove. Under a minute later, Abbott made a drop pass to Jerry D’Amigo in the high slot, but D’Amigo’s shot was snared once again by the glove of Lieuwen.
The ice tilted in the Amerks favor for most of the third, and despite some hectic play in front of Gibson, Rochester could not take the lead. Rochester’s best chance came on the power-play on a deep shot from Mark Pysyk that rang off the post, and the rebound sat in the crease for a few seconds before being swept away by Toronto’s defense.
The Amerks penalty kill, which was solid all night long, had to be at its best in the final two minutes to secure a point after Zigomanis was penalized for interference with 1:53 remaining. Some critical saves from Lieuwen and timely blocks paved the way to overtime.
The Marlies power-play received their chance at redemption in the extra session and took advantage. As Toronto controlled the puck in the Amerks zone late in overtime, former Amerk T.J. Brennan fired a shot from the blueline that was blocked by Ristolainen, but the puck bounced right to Abbott at the left circle. With Lieuwen having lost sight of the puck, Abbott quickly made good on the opportunity, snapping a wrister into the top of the net to win the game for Toronto.
The Amerks make their way to the southern tier on Saturday, March 15 to take on the intrastate rival Binghamton Senators in the first leg of a home-and-home series at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the sixth of eight meetings between the two teams this season and can be heard live on Sports 1280 WHTK.