|DAN LAMBERT POST-GAME|
|JEAN DUPUY POST-GAME|
|CAL O'REILLY POST-GAME|
(Rochester, NY) – The Rochester Americans (12-18-0-1) hosted the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (21-8-1-0) for the first of a back-to-back set at The Blue Cross Arena Wednesday night, but fell to the AHL’s second-best team by the score of 4-2.
Justin Bailey established a new career high with his fifth goal in his fourth straight game as he buried his 13th marker of the campaign. Cal O’Reilly capped off the scoring as he netted his fifth late in the final period of regulation for the Amerks. Evan Rodrigues and Tyson Strachan each recorded an assist in the contest while Linus Ullmark made 25 saves in the defeat.
Rochester native Mark Zengerle led the Phantoms with a pair of goals as he chipped in his seventh and eighth of the campaign while former Amerk T.J. Brennan and Maxim Lamarche each picked up a pair of assists to lead Lehigh Valley to its league-leading 21st victory of the season. Robert Hagg opened the scoring for the visitors while rookie netminder Alex Lyon improved to 14-6-1 after making 14 saves. He leads all AHL goaltenders with 14 wins on the slate.
In a tightly contested first period that saw the teams combine for just 11 shots, the Phantoms’ Hagg opened the scoring on the night with 5:16 left in the frame. Hagg fired an innocent looking shot but the puck hit an Amerk stick on its way to the cage and past an unsuspecting Ullmark.
“We played a strong defensive period as we held them to just eight shots in the first,” Amerks head coach Dan Lambert. “They are an experienced hockey club and they showed it tonight as the game went on.”
After emerging from the dressing rooms after the first intermission, Lehigh Valley double its lead at the 9:32 mark of the period moments after a Rochester penalty had expired.
The Amerks cut the deficit in half when Bailey sent a shot from between the face-off dots in the offensive zone after being set-up by Rodrigues and Strachan. However, the visiting Phantoms countered right back less than a minute later to reclaim their two-goal cushion.
“That is what good teams do,” explained Lambert when asked about the Phantoms’ quick response. “We have to be at our best when we play a team like them and tonight we certainly did not do so.”
Later in the final stanza and much like their second goal of the night seconds after a Rochester infraction, Lehigh Valley lit the lamp when Greg Carey scored his 15th marker of the season.
With the game winding down, Rochester had a final push as O’Reilly picked the pocket of Lyon and flipped in his sixth tally of the campaign with just 69 seconds left in the contest.
Despite the defeat, Jean Dupuy made his season debut with the Amerks after missing the first 30 contests with an injury. Dupuy centered a line with Rodrigues and rookie forward Eric Cornel.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how hard Jean played and how he competed after missing the first 30 games, but unfortunately he was one of the few that played hard, ” said Lambert.
The Amerks and Phantoms clash for the second time in three nights on Friday, Dec. 30 as the two teams bring their season series to a close in the back-end of a two-game set at The Blue Cross Arena. Opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. and all of the action will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Bailey (13), O’Reilly (6)
LV: Hagg (2), Zengerle (7, 8), Carey (15)
RCH: Ullmark – 25/29 (L)
LV: Lyon – 14/16 (W)
RCH: PP (0/4) / PK (4/4)
LV: PP (0/4) / PK (4/4)