(Charlotte, NC) … Timely goals along with big saves helped the Rochester Americans (24-9-4-5) extinguish a three-game winless streak as the Amerks picked up a 4-1 victory in the opening game of a two-game set with the Charlotte Checkers (23-17-0-1). Saturday night’s matchup was the first-ever meeting between the two clubs at the Bojangles’ Coliseum and just the second all-time in franchise history.
With the win, the Amerks have earned points in 29 of their last 33 games and have collected 49 points dating back to Nov. 1. Additionally, the Amerks improved to 10-0-1-1 in the 12 road games when they have scored the game’s opening goal and 13-2-4-3 overall while away from The Blue Cross Arena on the season.
Rookie forward C.J. Smith notched his ninth multi-point outing of the season as he led the Amerks with three points (1+2) while Seth Griffith recorded his sixth multi-point effort with his two assists. Eric Cornel, Kyle Criscuolo and Sean Malone rounded out the scoring for Rochester while goaltender Adam Wilcox, who made his third start in the last six games, made 23 saves to record his seventh win of the campaign. The Minnesota native shows a 7-3-4 record in his first 16 appearances with the Amerks and holds a 6-1-2 mark in his last nine games.
Lucas Wallmark tallied his 10th goal of the slate and third in the last two games for Charlotte while Jeremy Smith stopped 21 of 24 shots he faced but suffered his fourth straight loss in the blue paint.
The Amerks opened the scoring 5:12 into the first period as Adam Krause forced a turnover just inside the Checkers zone. With the loose puck sitting atop the left point, Cornel spotted the puck before he fired a shot past the glove of Smith to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead with his fourth goal of the season.
Less than four minutes later, Criscuolo doubled Rochester’s lead as he added his 10th marker of the campaign from Griffith and Smith. Criscuolo dusted himself off after being taken to the ice to the left of Checkers net and wrapped around the cage. The forward stuffed the puck inside the right post and the right leg of Smith at the 8:29 mark of the frame.
After the teams emerged from the first intermission break, Malone made it a 3-0 game at the 15:47 mark of the second period when he redirected a shot from Smith.
Despite the three-goal deficit, the Checkers got on the board with Wallmark’s power-play goal with 2:01 left in the stanza just 48 seconds into a Rochester hooking infraction.
Rochester carried a 3-1 lead into final period of regulation.
Despite facing a game-high 11 shots during the last 20 minutes of play, Wilcox stood tall in the crease to hold on for the 4-1 win. Smith rounded out the scoring as he slipped in his team-leading 14th goal of the season with the Checkers netminder on the bench with 1:47 left in regulation.
The same two teams are back in action again on Sunday, Jan. 21 as the Amerks and Checkers conclude the weekend set with a 1:00 p.m. rematch at Bonjangles’ Coliseum. Following Sunday’s matchup, the Amerks will bring the road trip to a close with a pair of games north of the border on back-to-back nights prior to the AHL All-Star break. All three games can be heard live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Cornel (4), Criscuolo (10), Malone (3), Smith (14)
CHA: Wallmark (10)
RCH: Wilcox– 23/24 (W)
CHA: Smith– 21/24 (L)
RCH: PP (0/1) | PK (1/2)
CHA: PP (1/2) | PK (1/1)