(Binghamton, NY) – Veteran forward Derek Grant made an impactful return in his first game back in the southern tier, scoring three times, including once in each period, to lead the Rochester Americans (26-37-0-2) to a hard-fought 5-4 win over the Binghamton Senators (25-38-2-2) Saturday at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena. The win was the second straight for the Amerks and the second in as many nights Rochester scored three straight unanswered goals to come from behind after trailing after 40 minutes of play.
After scoring just one goal through his first 10 games, Grant, who spent four-plus seasons with the Senators and helped Binghamton win the Calder Cup in 2011, has tallied five points in the past two nights, including his first career hat trick tonight to lead the Amerks to the comeback victory.
The three-goal night was the second of the season for Rochester after Nick Baptiste notched three back on Dec. 14 versus the Toronto Marlies. Baptiste scored the game-winning marker with his team-leading 21st of the season while Justin Vaive helped start the Amerks comeback with his third of the season before adding an assist on the game-winner. Baptiste and Vaive joined Grant, Mat Bodie, Cole Schneider and Tim Kennedy as all six would finish the night with multi-point efforts. Rookie netminder Jonas Johansson had an equally impressive American Hockey League debut, stopping 28 of 32 shots he faced to pick up his first AHL win.
Max McCormick (2+1) paced the Binghamton offense with his team-best 19th and 20th goals of the season and Zach O’Brien notched his first-career AHL goal before Nick Paul capped off the scoring. Goaltender Matt O’Connor stopped 36 of 41 shots he faced in a losing effort to drop his record to 12-17-2.
After taking a 4-2 lead 19 seconds into the final period, the B-Sens saw the Amerks storm back with a goal of their own just 14 seconds later to make it a one-goal game again. Following Vaive’s goal, the Amerks continued to fire shots on O’Connor, but it seemed they were not going to solve the netminder as time was ticking away. However, at the 15:44 mark of the final stanza, Bodie fired a shot on net that Grant was able to get a stick on and redirected the puck into the net to even the score at 4-4 with 4:16 left in regulation to complete the hat trick. The three-goal outing on the road was the first for the Amerks away from The Blue Cross Arena since Tim Schaller scored three times Feb. 20 of last season against the Syracuse Crunch.
As time was dwindling down, it appeared the game might be headed to the extra session, but Baptiste ended any thoughts of that as he dug out the puck of a scrum to the left of the B-Sens goalie. The second-year forward wasted little time as he ripped his team-leading 21st goal of the season with 1:21 left in the contest.
Despite Binghamton pulling O’Connor after the Baptiste goal, Johansson and company were able to hold off the final push by the Sens. The newcomer earned the win to give Rochester its second win in as many nights as he finished with 28 saves in his professional debut.
The opening period saw the North Division rivals combine for 27 shots and Binghamton jump out to a 2-1 lead with goals from O’Brien and McCormick separated by Grant’s first of the night. Rochester flipped the script during the middle frame, registering a season-high 22 shots on net, but the B-Sens were able to escape the stanza with a 3-2 lead before the Amerks scored three straight goals for the comeback win.
The Amerks go for their third straight win and the weekend sweep as they return home to close out their season series with a rematch against the Springfield Thunderbirds Sunday afternoon back at The Blue Cross Arena. The 3:05 p.m. matinee will be the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Grant (4, 5, 6), Vaive (3), Baptiste (21)
BNG: O’Brien (1), McCormick (19, 20), Paul (12)
RCH: Johansson – 28/32 (W)
BNG: O’Connor – 36/41 (L)
RCH: PP (0/4) / PK (4/5)
BNG: PP (1/5) / PK (4/4)