|DAN LAMBERT POST-GAME|
|DANIEL MUZITO-BAGENDA POST-GAME|
|CAL O'REILLY POST-GAME|
(Rochester, NY) – The Rochester Americans (16-21-0-1) hosted the league-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (27-7-3-0) Friday at The Blue Cross Arena and came out on the short end of a 3-2 setback to the Penguins.
For the third time over his last five games, Amerks rookie Daniel Muzito-Bagenda found the back of the net during the opening frame. Rochester’s captain, Cal O’Reilly, capped off the scoring for the Amerks with his power-play tally while goalie John Muse made his third consecutive start for the first time all season, stopping 21 of the 24 shots he faced.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was led by veteran Tom Kostopoulos’ sixth multi-point effort and Carter Rowney’s fourth of the season as each bagged a goal and assist in the victory. Stuart Percy got credited with the game-winning goal late during the third period while Tristan Jarry earned his 16th win of the season, tying him for most in the AHL, after he made 27 saves on the night.
Trailing 2-1 early in the final period, the Amerks drew their sixth power-play of the contest. After hustling to keep the puck in the Penguins zone, Evan Rodrigues sent a cross-ice feed to O’Reilly, who ripped a shot just under the cross-bar to even the game at two with 14:22 remaining in the period. The marker was O’Reilly’s eighth of the season with assists to Rodrigues and Cole Schneider. Rodrigues extended his career-long home point (1+5) streak to six games and shows 11 points (3+8) in his last 11 games dating back to Dec. 17.
After tying the contest, the Amerks drew their final power-play of the game and had hopes of using the same luck to take the lead, but the Penguins drew their own infraction to nullify the man-advantage opportunity.
Neither team was able to score during the brief four-on-four session, but after killing off the infraction, the visiting club carried the energy then found some puck-luck after Percy fired a shot from the point. The innocent looking shot hit off two different skates before sneaking in behind Muse to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton the lead with 6:44 remaining.
In an attempt to tie the score yet again, the Amerks pulled Muse for the extra-attacker but Rochester could not find a way to solve Jarry as the Penguins held on for their sixth straight victory since the turn of the New Year.
The Amerks opened the scoring on the night after Muzito-Bagenda hammered home his fifth goal of the season just 4:37 into the tilt. With the puck atop the offensive zone, defensemen Tyson Strachan fired a shot off the left pad of Jarry before Muzito-Bagenda tacked in the rebound for the early 1-0 lead. The tally was the rookie forward’s fourth point (1+4) over his last five games.
“I think when we deal with younger players, their second half of the season is usually their stronger half,” said Amerks head coach Dan Lambert. “I believe that is the case with Daniel, as he is slowly starting to find his stride and we need him as well as other younger guys to bring it on a consistent basis.”
Five minutes later in the first period, the Penguins gained a 2-1 lead that they would carry into the dressing room after a pair of power-play goals despite being outshot 14-6 during the frame.
“It was one of our better starts of the year,” said O’Reilly. “I think most guys were ready to play and we played them very tough. I feel as a team we are getting better and now we just have to bring it every night.”
After a scoreless second period, the Amerks entered the final 20 minutes of play down a goal before O’Reilly tied the game.
“I really liked our compete level as it was high along with our energy,” added Lambert, “but unfortunately our power-play was not there as it could not get us over the edge for the victory. While we did not get the win, it certainly is a game we can build off as we move forward.”
The Amerks embark on a season-long four-game road trip on Saturday, Jan. 14 as they head north of the border for the second time in as many weeks to face-off against the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum. The 5:00 p.m. matchup will be the sixth of 10 meetings between the North Division foes this season and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Muzito-Bagenda (5), O’Reilly (8)
WBS: Rowney (6), Kostopoulos (12), Percy (2)
RCH: Muse – 21/24 (L)
WBS: Jarry – 27/29 (W)
RCH: PP (1/7) / PK (3/5)
WBS: PP (2/5) / PK (6/7)