Despite a season-high 44 shots on goal and an impressive American Hockey League debut from rookie goaltender Andrey Makarov, the Rochester Americans dropped a 3-1 decision to the North Division rival Toronto Marlies Tuesday morning at Ricoh Coliseum. The loss extends Rochester’s winless streak to seven games and moved the Amerks, who still hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, to 30-25-6-4 on the season.
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Veteran forward Kevin Porter scored Rochester’s lone goal off an assist from Johan Larsson and Makarov turned in a solid 33-save effort in his Amerks debut while becoming the fourth netminder to play for the Amerks this season.
Spencer Abbott and Greg McKegg provided the offense for the Marlies while Garrett Sparks stopped 43 of the 44 shots sent his way en route to first star honors. Trevor Smith also scored for Toronto, adding any empty-netter in the closing seconds of regulation.
Makarov was tested early in his AHL debut when Toronto’s Peter Holland broke into the Rochester zone on a partial breakaway just minutes after the opening face-off. The rookie netminder was equal to the task, however, and kicked out his right leg to make his first save as an Amerk and the first of his 12 stops in the period. Later in the period, Makarov had to be at his best again as Smith had perhaps the best opportunity of the frame from point-blank range, but Makarov robbed the Marlies captain with a quick flash of his glove to keep the contest scoreless.
A penalty to Toronto’s Andrew MacWilliam late in the first gave the Amerks 1:06 of power-play time to begin the second and Rochester would need just 57 seconds on the man-advantage to capitalize. Larsson made a nifty play at the blueline to keep the play alive and swung a pass to Porter, who was stationed below the right face-off dot. Porter faked his initial shot, drawing the attention of the Toronto defense, circled around one last defender and beat Sparks to the far side to put Rochester ahead 1-0. Larsson would earn the lone assist on Porter’s 15th of the season.
Toronto answered just 1:18 later as Abbott took a return pass from Josh Leivo and stuffed a back-hander past Makarov for his 15th of the season. Abbott gathered a loose puck off the end boards behind the Rochester net and attempted to set up Leivo streaking in from the right side. Despite not being able to get a shot off, Leivo was able to pull Makarov out of his crease before sending a no-look pass back to the far post, where Abbott had a wide-open net to knot the score at 1-1.
Rochester nearly took the lead midway through the second stanza during its first 5-on-3 of the game, but steady goaltending by Sparks kept the Amerks at bay for the duration of the two-man advantage.
The Marlies took their first lead of the day on a late goal by Greg McKegg, who converted his own rebound to give Toronto the 2-1 advantage. David Broll gained the Amerks zone and fed McKegg coasting into the left circle. McKegg made a dash to the net, eluded a Rochester defenseman and put a shot on goal that was blocked away by Makarov. The puck, though, took an awkward bounce off the Amerks netminder and McKegg, continuing with the play, batted it out of midair and past Makarov for the go-ahead goal with 1:23 remaining in the middle frame.
The Amerks had another chance to pull even late in the third period with Broll and Sam Carrick taking consecutive penalties to give Rochester its second two-man advantage with 2:55 left to play. Sparks and the Toronto defense again stymied the Amerks, who also pulled Makarov in favor of an extra attacker, but Smith would sink any empty-netter from center ice with just nine ticks left on the clock to give the hosts a 3-1 win.
Rochester begins a four-game homestand on Wednesday, March 26 when the Milwaukee Admirals make their only appearance of the season at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be the second and final meeting between the interconference rivals this season and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK. Wednesday’s game will also be just the 14th all-time meeting between the two teams and the first time in over seven years the Amerks hosted the Admirals in Rochester. Fans can take advantage of a special two-for-one ticket offer for the game by visiting www.amerks.com/bogo.