(Utica, NY) – In the final game of the calendar year, Cole Schneider recorded a four-point night while Evan Rodrigues added a three-point effort to help secure the Rochester Americans (14-18-0-1) to its fifth win in the last eight games as the Amerks doubled up the Utica Comets (10-15-5-1) by the score of 6-3 Saturday at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Amerks were led by Schneider’s team-best 12th multi-point effort as he lit the lamp for the 13th and 14th times of the season and picked up a pair of assists. Joining him with a three-point performance, which equaled a career-best, was Rodrigues (2+1) as he extended his point-streak (3+3) to a career-long four games. Taylor Fedun collected a two-point night as he recorded a pair of assists for the Amerks while Linus Ullmark, making his sixth straight start, stopped 26 shots to up his record to 13-12-1 on the slate. The Swedish netminder is just one win shy of tying Alex Lyon for most wins among goaltenders in the AHL with 14 wins this season.
Alexandre Grenier, Darren Archibald and Colby Robak all found the back of the net for the Comets in the contest. Rookie goaltender Thatcher Demko, made 17 saves in the defeat.
After the Comets grabbed a 1-0 lead near the midway point of the opening period, Rodrigues tied the contest for Rochester. With the puck behind the Comets net, the second-year forward wrapped around the cage surprising Demko and found a small crease to slip the puck in for his sixth of the campaign with 4:44 left in the opening stanza. As the first period clock was coming to an end, Rodrigues received a one-timer setup from Tim Kennedy and buried the shot with just 0.4 seconds left in the frame to give the Amerks the lead heading into the break.
Down by a goal, Utica tied the game at two less than five minutes into the period after Curtis Valk forced a turnover inside the Amerk zone. Archibald capitalized on the miscue at the 4:39 mark of the second period. However, Rochester would regain the lead for remainder of the tilt less than eight minutes after Utica tied the game.
After being held without a shot for over half the period, Nick Baptiste fired the first shot of the period for the Amerks as he was left alone at the left-wing circle when Cal O’Reilly found him for his team-leading 15th tally of the season. O’Reilly and Fedun helped set-up the goal with 8:41 to play in the second period.
On the face-off following the Baptiste blast, Jean Dupuy won the faceoff to winger Eric Cornel. The rookie led a two-on-one rush into the zone before hitting Daniel Muzito-Bagenda in stride as he slipped a backhanded shot past Demko at the 12:44 mark for his third goal of the year.
As the Amerks were ahead by a pair of tallies to begin the final period, Schneider redirected a pass from Kennedy into the cage to give Rochester a three-goal lead with just over nine minutes left in regulation. The marker by Schneider was his 100th career professional goal while Kennedy earned an assist to record his 200th AHL career helper.
The Comets were able to come within two goals later in the period when Robak netted his first of the slate, but that would be as close as Utica would get before Schneider capped off the scoring when he added an empty-net goal with 84 seconds to go in the tilt.
The North Division rivals combined for 15 penalties on the night. The Comets were 2-for-10 with the man advantage while the Amerks were 1-for-5 on the power play.
The Amerks ring in the New Year with a three-in-three in the first weekend of 2017 beginning Friday night when Rochester welcomes the Syracuse Crunch back to The Blue Cross Arena. The North Division showdown is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Rodrigues (6,7), Baptiste (15), Muzito-Bagenda (3), Schneider (13,14)
UTI: Grenier (8), Archibald (9), Robak (1)
RCH: Ullmark – 26/29 (W)
UTI: Demko - 17/22 (L)
RCH: PP (1/5) / PK (8/10)
UTI: PP (2/10) / PK (4/5)