(Allentown, PA) – For the third time in the last four games, the Rochester Americans (9-13-0-1) were first on the board but were unable to hold the lead as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (16-7-1-0) answered with four unanswered goals before holding off a late comeback by the Amerks to escape with a 4-3 victory Friday at PPL Center. Rochester has now lost two straight heading into Saturday’s rematch against the Phantoms.
Cole Schneider and Justin Bailey led the way with a goal and an assist each while Nick Baptiste chipped in with his team-leading 11th goal of the campaign in just 15th game for the Amerks. Evan Rodrigues, Alexander Nylander, Cal O’Reilly and Casey Nelson all recorded an assist while goaltender Linus Ullmark made a season-high 44 saves in the defeat to fall to 8-9-1 on the season.
Lehigh Valley was led by Chris Conner’s season-high three points (2+1) and Andy Miele (1+1) as each factored in with multi-point efforts in the victory. Travis Sanheim and Greg Carey rounded out the scoring for the Phantoms behind a 21-save effort from rookie goaltender Alex Lyon.
The Amerks were leading by a pair of goals late in the opening frame with a chance to extend the lead prior to end of the first period, but Lehigh Valley thought otherwise. Just as time ran out on Sanheim’s slashing penalty, Conner blocked a shot inside the Phantoms end of the ice. With Conner and an Amerk defender racing towards the puck near center-ice, Conner won the race and spotted Sanheim just inside the Amerks zone. Sanheim raced in all alone on Ullmark, beating the goalie with a shot with 13 ticks left on the clock to make it 2-1.
The Phantoms carried the momentum from the late first period goal into the middle frame as they would get a pair of tallies just 27 seconds apart, the second of which came on the power-play to put the hosts up 3-2. Carey snapped home his 11th of the season off a clean face-off win by Miele, who then cleaned up a rebound from the beyond the left edge of the crease.
Lehigh Valley continued to control the play in the second period as the home squad again capitalized on a Rochester penalty to take a two-goal advantage. Colin McDonald fired the initial shot on Ullmark, who was unable to corral the rebound through a maze of bodies. Conner was there to scoop up the rebound before flipping the puck past the Rochester netminder’s glove with 6:30 left in the frame.
The Amerks emerged from the dressing room down by a pair of tallies to begin the final period of play but drew a slashing penalty midway through. On the ensuing man-advantage, O’Reilly slid a loose puck along the sideboards towards Nelson at the point. The rookie blueliner then fired a shot on net but it was Schneider who got credit for the tally as he was able to flag down the puck before slipping it past Lyon to cut the lead to 4-3 with 11:10 to play.
Despite the goal and pulling Ullmark late in the period, the Amerks could not find the equalizer as their comeback fell short to kickoff their three-game weekend.
The same two teams get back at it again on Saturday night as the Amerks and Phantoms reconvene in the back-end of a two-game set at PPL Center. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESON Rochester.
RCH: Bailey (8), Baptiste (11), Schneider (10)
LV: Sanheim (1), Carey (11), Miele (2), Conner (5)
RCH: Ullmark – 44/48 (L)
LV: Lyon – 21/24 (W)
RCH: PP (1/3) / PK (3/5)
SYR: PP (2/5) / PK (2/3)