The Rochester Americans suffered their first regulation loss of the season at the hands of the North Division rival Lake Erie Monsters, who scored twice in the second period and tacked on two more in the third to shutout the Amerks 5-0 Friday at Quickens Loans Arena. The loss extends Rochester’s winless streak to five games and drops the Amerks to 30-23-6-4 on the season heading into Sunday’s rematch with the Monsters in Cleveland.
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Newcomer Troy Bourke had an impressive American Hockey League debut, finishing with one goal and two assists while Mark Olver also posted three points (1+2) and J.T. Wyman scored a pair of goals for the hometown Monsters. Michael Schumacher rounded out the scoring for Lake Erie and Sami Aittokallio stopped all 25 shots sent his way en route to his 11th win of the season.
Rochester goaltender Connor Knapp, who joined the Amerks from the ECHL’s Alaska Aces earlier in the week, made 34 saves on 39 shots in his first AHL action of the season.
Lake Erie opened the scoring midway through the first period after a net-front scramble led to Bourke’s first pro goal at 11:20 with assists from Matt Hunwick and Olver. On the ensuing rush following a penalty to Rochester’s Tim Schaller, Hunwick gained the offensive zone and put a low slap-shot on goal that was met by the midsection of Knapp. The Amerks netminder appeared to have the puck securely beneath him, but would soon lose sight of it as a crowd gathered at the top of the crease. Bourke, however, who was stationed at the left post, somehow jarred it loose through the traffic and swept it over the goal-line for a 1-0 lead the Monsters would take into first intermission.
Lake Erie upped its advantage to a pair with a power-play tally from Schumacher 7:22 into the middle frame. Olver circled out from behind the Rochester net and skated up the left wing boards before leaving a drop pass for Colin Smith, who shifted into the near face-off circle from his position in the high slot. Smith then made a quick dash to net, and instead of shooting, sent a cross-ice pass through the goal-mouth that Schumacher was able to swat out of midair to make it a 2-0 game.
Wyman cushioned the Monsters lead to 3-0 less than five minutes later when his centering feed from the left corner took a fortuitous bounce and ended up behind Knapp. Mike Sgarbossa cycled the puck low to Wyman, who attempted to make a quick centering feed to Bourke waiting in the low slot. Wyman’s pass, however, caromed off the skate of Amerks defenseman Nick Tuzzolino and past an unsuspecting Knapp for his first of two goals on the night. Bourke also notched an assist on Wyman’s fifth of the season.
Wyman added his second of the game midway through the final frame to widen the gap for Lake Erie. Bourke’s initial shot from the right circle was knocked down by Knapp, but the rebound bounced to Wyman, who lifted a back-hander over the fallen goaltender before Olver converted his own rebound with 3:14 left in regulation to seal the 5-0 win.
The same two teams return to action again on Sunday, March 23 as the Amerks and Monsters wrap up their weekend set with an afternoon matchup at Quicken Loans in Arena in downtown Cleveland. The 3:00 p.m. matinee will be the ninth of 10 meetings between the North Division rivals this season and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK.