(Utica, NY) – Trailing by three with three minutes left to play in the third period, the Rochester Americans (28-38-2-0) inched their way back to make it a one-goal game, but were unable to complete the comeback, dropping a 5-3 decision to the Utica Comets (32-28-7-2) Saturday at the Utica Memorial Auditorium to split the home-and-home series.
Jonas Johansson made just his second AHL start and Kyle Bonis recorded his first two-goal game since February of last year, with his ninth and 10th goals of the season. Amerks leading point-getter Cole Schneider extended his point streak to a season-long five straight games with an unassisted shorthanded goal with 48 seconds remaining to round out the scoring for Rochester. The Williamsville native sits eighth in the league for scoring with 56 points in 63 games.
Utica rookie Jake Virtanen recorded his first pro multi-goal game with two goals on the night, the second of which was helped by Comets goalie Thatcher Demko’s fifth assist on the year. Forward Carter Bancks recorded his 10th goal of the season, and Darren Archibald tied a franchise record with his team-leading 22nd goal of the year behind a 20-save effort from Demko.
Bonis opened the scoring four minutes into the game, giving the Amerks a quick 1-0 lead off a 2-on-0 breakaway. The lead would be short-lived, however, as Joseph LaBate responded less than 2:30 later for Utica, converting on a shot from near center ice that trickled past Johansson.
The two teams were knotted at one apiece until Utica capitalized on a Jean Dupuy penalty late in the middle frame as Virtanen tallied his eighth of the year with a sharp angle wrist shot. The rookie’s power-play goal gave Utica a lead they would carry through to the end of the game.
A five-goal third period opened quickly for the hosts with the Comets scoring twice in the first 1:42, beginning with Bancks getting the better of Johansson as a result of a fortuitous bounce just 17 seconds in. Virtanen widened the gap shortly thereafter, giving the Comets a 4-1 edge and their largest lead of the night.
Rochester mounted its comeback attempt late in the final period when Alexander Nylander weaved his way through the Utica defense before setting up Bonis’ second of the contest, a tap-in past Demko at the 17:00 mark. Schneider brought the Amerks to within a goal in the final minute on a shorthanded breakaway opportunity, but Utica put the game away for good as Archibald responded with an empty netter on the power-play to seal the 5-3 win for Utica.
The Amerks bring the three-game weekend to a close on Sunday, April 2 as they make their penultimate trip of the season to the Times Union Center for a 3:00 p.m. clash with the Albany Devils. All the action can he heard live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Bonis (9, 10), Schneider (21)
UTI: LaBate (5), Virtanen (8, 9), Bancks (10), Archibald (22)
RCH: Johansson – 22/26 (L)
UTI: Demko – 20/23 (W)
RCH: PP (0/2) / PK (4/6)
UTI: PP (2/6) / PK (2/2)