AMERKS TRIPPED UP BY CHECKERS, DROP SECOND STRAIGHTDec 8, 2023
The Rochester Americans (11-7-2-0) erased a one-goal deficit early in the first period but ultimately were unable to keep up with the Charlotte Checkers (11-9-0-0), who scored five straight unanswered goals, including four in the third period, to come away with a 6-1 win Friday at The Blue Cross Arena.
Despite the loss, Rochester and Charlotte split the two-game series in the Flower City after the Amerks earned a 4-3 victory back on Oct. 25. Additionally, the Amerks, who began a stretch of four straight games against Atlantic Division opponents, sit in third place in the North Division standings, four points behind Syracuse and five away from Cleveland, who leads the division with 29 points.
Forward Michael Mersch scored his third goal in the opening frame from Brett Murray and Kale Clague. Justin Richards had a season-high four shots, which topped all Amerks. Veteran goaltender Dustin Tokarski (4-3-1) made 25 saves in the defeat. Tokarski faced 11 shots in each of the first two periods against his former team.
Brendan Perlini (3+0) and Gerry Mayhew (1+2) each totaled three points while Riley Bezeau (1+1) also had a multi-point effort for Charlotte, which came into the matchup having dropped five of its last six over its recent six-game homestand. Will Lockwood scored his third goal of the season to wrap up the scoring. Goaltender Spencer Knight (6-4-0) recorded the win in his 10th appearance of the season while stopping 24 of the 25 shots he faced.
Moments into the first period, Rochester was whistled for a hooking infraction less than two minutes into the contest after nearly opening the scoring on the game’s initial shift.
On the ensuing power-play, Charlotte used the first minute to set up its offense before former Amerk Rasmus Asplund retrieved Mayhew’s pass inside the left point. The Swedish forward briefly hesitated before sending a cross-ice feed for Perlini to fire through Tokarski’s legs at the 2:54 mark.
Rochester responded less than four minutes as Clague fired a shot wide of Knight’s net from the center of the zone. Murray retrieved the puck and centered a pass between the circles for Mersch to snap past the netminder’s blocker to even the score at 1-1.
The score did not remain tied for long as Charlotte reclaimed its lead 1:55 after Mersch’s third of the season.
The Amerks narrowly missed an opportunity on an attempt from inside the hashmarks, but Patrick Giles picked off a pass and provided an outlet to Bezeau. The second-year forward darted up the ice and tracked down the feed before finishing off the breakaway goal by beating Tokarski inside the near post.
During the middle stanza, the two clubs combined for 12 penalty minutes and 20 shots but both Tokarkski and Knight kept the matchup a one-goal affair going into the final frame.
Early in the third period, the Amerks had an extended shift deep inside the Checkers zone as they tried to find the equalizer. The attempt was denied by the visitors and Mayhew cleared the puck ahead to Perlini down the left wing. Perlini beat an Amerk defender before lifting a shot over Tokarski’s left leg to push the score to 3-1.
The Checkers used a three-goal run in nearly four minutes, one of which came while the Amerks had an empty net, to cap off the 6-1 score.
The Amerks continue their trek through the Atlantic Division on Wednesday, Dec. 12 when they embark on a three-game road swing against the Springfield Thunderbirds at MassMutual Center. The 7:00 p.m. contest will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM The Fan Rochester as well as AHLTV.
Stars and Stripes:
With his goal tonight, which snapped a nine-game goal-scoring drought, Michael Mersch (1+1) has points in back-to-back games … Brett Murray’s primary assist on Mersch’s goal gives him nine points (3+6) in his last eight games versus Charlotte since the 2020-21 season … Kale Clague notched an assist in the first period, his 12th of the slate … Clague, who has points in back-to-back games and four assists over his last five games, is tied for 11th in the league amongst all defensemen in assists while his 13 points are tied for 16th.
CLT: B. Perlini (3, 4, 5), R. Bezeau (2), W. Lockwood (3)
ROC: M. Mersch (3)
CLT: S. Knight – 24/25 (W)
ROC: D. Tokarski – 25/30 (L)
CLT: PP (1/3) | PK (3/3)
ROC: PP (0/3) | PK (2/3)
1. CLT - B. Perlini
2. CLT - S. Knight
3. CLT - G. Mayhew