SUBBAN, AMERKS STIFLE BEARS WITH 4-1 WIN IN GAME 5
Rochester staves off elimination, force Game 6 at Blue Cross Arena on FridayMay 31, 2023
Facing a must-win situation, the Rochester Americans (8-5) scored three third-period goals, including a pair from Lukas Rousek, to defeat the Hershey Bears (9-3) and stave off elimination with a 4-1 win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday at GIANT Center.
With the win, the Amerks improved to 4-0 this spring and 32-41 all-time when facing elimination. Rochester will look to even the best-of-seven series at three games apiece on Friday when the American Hockey League’s two most storied franchises meet for Game 6 back in the Flower City, where the Amerks show a 15-6 record all-time against the Bears in the postseason.
In addition to Rousek, defenseman Lawrence Pilut (0+2) produced a pair of points in the victory while Michael Mersch and Jiri Kulich each added their first goals of the series. Joseph Cecconi, Linus Weissbach, Sean Malone, and Mason Jobst all had one assist each.
Goaltender Malcolm Subban (8-5) made 32 saves in his 13th straight appearance of the playoffs. The Toronto, Ontario, native has allowed two or fewer goals in five of his last 13 games, which includes one shutout dating back to Rochester’s North Division Semifinals with Syracuse.
Hershey’s Aliaksei Protas potted his fifth goal of the Calder Cup Playoffs in the third period with Logan Day and Joe Snively each recording the assist on the power-play tally.
Goaltender Hunter Shepard (9-3) stopped 23 of the 26 shots he faced but took his second loss of the series and just third of the spring.
Holding a narrow 2-1 lead midway through the third period, Rochester, which entered the contest without a power-play goal, drew its fourth man-advantage of the game.
With the puck at center ice, Pilut left it for Weissbach as he sped through the neutral zone. The second-year forward carried the feed across the blueline before backhanding it to Mersch outside the left face-off dot. The Amerks team captain and five-time 20-goal scorer gathered the pass and from a sharp angle before picking the short-side of Shepard to double the lead at the 13:11 mark.
Looking to spark some late-game heroics, Hershey pulled its netminder for the final three minutes of regulation as they were trailing 3-1.
The plan backfired, however, as Malone and Pilut provided an outlet pass for Rousek to bury into the vacant net, giving Rochester a 4-1 cushion.
Early in the first few minutes of the contest, the Bears used the momentum from the sold-out crowd and tested Subban several times. Their best chance of the frame came on a two-on-one, odd-man rush but the netminder denied the shot, keeping the score unchanged.
Rochester weathered the emotions and thanks to the offensive zone efforts by the line trio of Weissbach, Filip Cederqvist and Kulich, the club got on the board with Kulich’s marker.
After the extended shift, Hershey cleared the puck out of the zone but directly to Cecconi’s stick as he was stationed at the far blueline. The defenseman quickly provided a pass to Kulich, who cut through the center of the ice and snapped a long-range shot overtop Shepard’s left leg to give Rochester a quick 1-0 lead.
The Amerks carried the one-goal advantage into the final frame before they doubled it just 82 seconds in the period.
Brett Murray and Jobst forced a turnover deep inside the Hershey zone and to the right of Shepard. Then after gaining possession, Jobst sent a one-time feed through the crease for Rousek to blast inside the left post to up Rochester’s lead by a pair.
The Bears cut into the deficit on Protas’ marker less than three minutes, however, the Amerks added two more tallies to preserve the 4-1 win and their season.
The Amerks again look to stave off elimination as the Eastern Conference Finals returns to Rochester on Friday, June 2 for Game 6 at The Blue Cross Arena. Opening puck-drop is set for 7:05 p.m. and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM The Fan Rochester as well as AHL TV. Additionally, the game will be televised live on MSG Network.
Jiri Kulich opened the scoring with his first goal of the series and seventh of the postseason. The rookie forward's seven goals in the playoffs lead all AHL rookies and are tied for second-most in the league … With Kulich's first-period goal, the Amerks have scored the first goal in seven of 13 games during the postseason and have outscored the opposition 14-6 in the opening period … Austin Strand made his professional postseason debut as he returned to the lineup for the first appearance for Rochester since April 5 during the regular season.
ROC: J. Kulich (7), L. Rousek (4, 5), M. Mersch (6)
HER: A. Protas (5)
ROC: M. Subban – 32/33 (W)
HER: H. Shepard – 23/26 (L)
ROC: PP (1/4) | PK (1/2)
HER: PP (1/2) | PK (3/4)
1. ROC – M. Subban
2. ROC – L. Rousek
3. HER – A. Protas