(Hershey, PA) – … The Rochester Americans (25-12-7-5) took their first lead of Sunday night’s game against the Hershey Bears (19-24-3-4) with 2:37 remaining in the third period, but the Bears tied contest at 2-2 with three seconds to force overtime. Then, less than two minutes into the extra session, newcomer Joe Whitney, playing in just his second game with the Bears, scored the game-winner to give Hershey the win in the 456th all-time meeting between the league’s oldest teams.
Despite the 3-2 overtime loss, the Amerks have collected at least one point in 33 of their last 42 games dating back to Nov. 1, including 11 of their last 16 games since the turn of the New Year. The game was Rochester’s league-leading 21st that went beyond regulation and the eighth since Jan. 1.
Forwards Seth Griffith and Eric Cornel each scored for the Amerks, who have gone winless in five straight games for the first time all season. Goaltender Linus Ullmark manned the crease for the second time in as many nights but took the loss despite stopping 30 of 33. The Swedish netminder is winless in his last eight starts, going 0-4-4 during that span.
Whitney and Riley Barber led Hershey to its first win in the last four games as they each notched a goal and two assists while Wayne Simpson rounded out the scoring. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek made 22 saves in the contest and improved to 8-7-1 on the season with the win.
With the game tied at 1-1, Kevin Porter cradled a loose puck just outside the Hershey blueline and entered the zone from the left point. The Amerks team captain spun and flung a pass towards Cornel, who was crashing towards the net. The 21-year-old redirected the puck in behind Vanecek for his fifth of the slate and gave Rochester a 2-1 lead with 2:37 left to play.
As time was dwindling down inside the final seconds of play, Simpson carried the puck into the Amerks zone to the right of Ullmark. Simpson whiffed on his initial attempt, but on his second shot, the 28-year-old found a way to beat the netminder and tie the game with just 2.8 showing on the third-period clock.
Early in the overtime period, Griffith snuck behind the Bears skaters and raced in all alone towards Vanecek, but the former AHL All-Star was turned aside and the stanza continued.
On the ensuing shift after Griffith’s breakaway, Aaron Ness skated with the puck below the goal-line and centered a pass to Barber atop the Amerks zone. Barber fired a shot on Ullmark, but Whitney swept the rebound behind the netminder to give Hershey a 3-2 overtime victory.
The marker 1:32 into the overtime period was his first with the Hershey and 10th overall after being acquired from the New York Rangers organization on Thursday.
Things could have been worst for Rochester as they were outshot 14-5 after the opening 20 minutes but trailed 1-0. Then, during the middle stanza, the Amerks could not seem to get much offense in the first half of the period before Griffith tied the game at 1-1 at the 14:31 mark.
Collecting a pass to enter the Bears zone from Kyle Criscuolo, Griffith skated to the left of the ice with Justin Bailey flanking the right on a two-on-one odd-man rush. Turning from his backhand to forehand, Griffith fired a shot over the glove and tied the game with his ninth of the campaign.
Criscuolo and Andrew MacWilliam, who returned to the lineup after missing 16 games, were credited with the assists on the game-tying goal with 5:29 left in second period.
Each of the two clubs recorded several scoring chances during the final frame as they would combine for 21 shots but could only light the lamp once and overtime was required.
The extra session lasted only 92 seconds before Whitney completed a three-point night as he scored the game-winner to give the Bears a 3-2 win.
The Amerks return home to The Blue Cross Arena on Friday, Feb. 16 when they host the first-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to begin their second three-in-three of season. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be the second 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: Griffith (9), Cornel (5)
HER: Barber (17), Simpson (10), Whitney (10, OT GWG)
RCH: Ullmark– 30/33 (OTL)
HER: Vanecek– 22/24 (W)
RCH: PP (0/3) | PK (4/5)
HER: PP (1/5) | PK (3/3)