(Hartford, CT) – The Rochester Americans (20-25-0-2) jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the second period before holding off and defeating the Hartford Wolf Pack (17-25-3-2) by the score of 4-2 at the XL Center Saturday.
Evan Rodrigues scored his eighth and ninth goals on campaign to help the Amerks grab the lead they would never see evaporate. Also, picking up two assists was newly acquired Patrick Mullen and team captain Cal O’Reilly, who rejoined the club earlier in the day after being reassigned by the parent Buffalo Sabres. Mullen has recorded three assists in his first two games with Rochester while Rodrigues shows 13 points (4+9) in his last 15 games dating back to Dec. 17. Nick Baptiste and Cole Schneider finished off the scoring for the Amerks while Linus Ullmark made his seventh straight start in between the pipes, stopping 18 of the 20 shots he faced to improve his record to 18-16-2. The Swedish netminder’s 18 wins are just two shy for most in the league this season.
Justin Fontaine and Philip McRae each scored their seventh markers of the campaign for the Wolf Pack while Magnus Hellberg made 20 saves of the 24 shots he faced. He now shows an even 10-10-5 record on the season.
After holding off the Wolf Pack attack for nearly most of the first period, the Amerks forced a turnover inside the Hartford zone and Rodrigues capitalized on the miscue with 3:42 left in the period. Rodrigues stood in front of a clearing attempt and rifled his eighth goal of the campaign over the glove hand of Hellberg to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead they would carry into the first intermission break.
Less than six minutes into the second stanza, it was Rodrigues again who lit the lamp to push the Rochester lead to a pair of goals at the 5:34 mark. After jumping on to ice, the second-year forward picked up a pass from Mullen just before the Hartford blueline. Rodrigues eluded the defensemen on his way to the net before chipping the puck past Hellberg to make it a 2-0 game. The tally was his ninth of the slate, which ties his career-high from last season.
Later in the period, Rochester drew its first penalty of the contest and wasted little time to capitalize on the holding infraction. With the puck in along the far boards, O’Reilly sent a cross-ice pass to Baptiste, who was parked to the right of Hellberg, and blasted his 18th goal of the season just inside the right post to give the Amerks a 3-0 lead with 7:55 to play in the second period. The goal was Rochester’s first on the power-play in nine games and gave the Amerks captain 10 points (3+7) in his last 12 games. Tonight was O’Reilly’s 500th career AHL game.
Before the second period clock expired, the Wolf Pack was able to get on the scoreboard with a shorthanded tally from Fontaine to make a 3-1 game. However, the Amerks regained their three-goal cushion when Schneider fired the puck in the upper corner at the 15:49 mark of the final stanza for his 17th goal of the campaign to make it 4-1. O’Reilly and Baptiste each got credited with the helpers. Schneider becomes the first Amerks skater this season to reach the 40-point plateau.
During the final minute of play, Rochester took a late tripping penalty. While Hartford was able to cut the lead in half, it was too little, too late as the Amerks would hold on for the 4-2 victory. The win was the 20th of the season and the third over the Wolf Pack, giving the Amerks a 3-1-0-0 record in the season series between the Eastern Conference foes.
The Amerks return home from their three-game road trip on Friday, Feb. 10 when they host the Albany Devils in a North Division showdown at The Blue Cross Arena on Donate Life Night. Friday’s matchup will be the fifth of the eight in the season series between the two teams and can be heard live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Rodrigues (8, 9), Baptiste (18), Schneider (17)
HFD: Fontaine (7), McRae (7)
RCH: Ullmark – 18/20 (W)
HFD: Hellberg – 20/24 (L)
RCH: PP (1/2) / PK (3/4)
HFD: PP (1/4) / PK (1/2)