(Hartford, CT) … The Rochester Americans (31-19-10-6) saw the Hartford Wolf Pack (29-29-5-3) erase a pair of two-goal deficits and respond with three unanswered second-period goals as they handed the Amerks a 6-4 loss. With Sunday night’s loss from the XL Center, it marks the third straight road game in which the Amerks were held without a point in regulation for the first time all season.
Despite the setback, the Amerks, who have earned at least one point in 20 of their last 30 games dating back to Jan. 1, maintain a 20-point lead on the fifth-place Laval Rocket in the North Division standings. The top four teams in the division are guaranteed a playoff spot and Rochester needs just three points to secure a postseason berth.
Rookie C.J. Smith recorded his first-career hat-trick as he took over the team-lead in both goals (17) and points (42) on the season while Alexander Nylander collected three assists for the Amerks. With Nylander’s three helpers, he has 15 points (4+11) over his last 15 contests and finished the three-game trek with six points (1+5). Arvin Atwal tallied his second goal of the slate while goaltender Jonas Johansson made his first start of the campaign but was tagged with the loss.
Vinni Lettieri scored a pair of goals for the Wolf Pack, who completed a three-game sweep this weekend, while Chris Bigras and Brenden Kotyk each added a goal and assist. Former Amerks Dan Catenacci (1+1) and Cole Schneider (0+2), turned in multi-point efforts as Hubert Labrie rounded out the scoring. Netminder Marek Mazanec improved to 8-4-1 in his first season with the Wolf Pack as he stopped 22 of 26 shots he faced.
As the final period of regulation between the Amerks and Wolf Pack was winding down and the score tied at 4-4, Catenacci spotted a loose puck in front of the Amerks rookie netminder. Johansson attempted to force a whistle by gloving the puck as bodies were around him but Catenacci poked it into the cage for his fifth of the season with 3:31 showing on the clock.
The Amerks tried to even the score and pulled Johansson but Lettieri ended any hope of a comeback as he plotted his team-best 19 marker of the year into the vacant-net and gave Hartford a 6-4 victory.
The win was the Wolf Pack’s third of the weekend and also the third straight against the Amerks.
Much like the previous two games of the New England trek, Rochester opened the scoring less than four minutes into the contest.
During Sunday’s game, Smith bagged a pair of tallies 3:10 apart giving the Amerks a 2-0 lead. Both of the goals were assisted by Nylander and Colin Blackwell. However, the Wolf Pack cut the lead in half before the end of the period as Bigras beat Johansson glove-side.
Rochester doubled its lead 7:39 into the middle stanza when Atwal joined an odd-man rush and ripped his second of the campaign to push the score to 3-1 in favor of the Amerks.
Unfortunately for the road team, Hartford responded with the next three goals. With a pair of markers 41 seconds apart, the Wolf Pack took a 4-3 lead into the dressing rooms.
The tilt remained a one-goal game until Smith tied the score as he redirected a shot from Matt Tennyson with 8:58 left in regulation.
Nylander tracked down a loose puck in the corner to the right of Mazanec and sent a pass up the wall to the defenseman. Once Tennyson gathered the puck, he fired a shot to the cage but as luck would have it, Smith was able to use his stick to alter the path of the puck in behind the netminder tying the game.
With his three-goal performance, Smith became the first Amerk since Derek Grant scored three goals Mar. 25 of last season in Binghamton. Additionally, it is the third straight game in which the Amerks were involved with a hat-trick after they allowed one in each of the first two games of the three-game road-trip.
Following Smith’s game-tying goal, Hartford responded with a pair of markers in the last 3:31 to take the contest by the score of 6-4.
The Amerks return to The Blue Cross Arena on Friday, Mar. 23 when they host the intrastate rival Binghamton Devils in the first of four straight home matchups. Following Friday’s contest with the Devils, the Amerks will take on Springfield on Saturday before hosting Utica and Charlotte the following week to close out the four-game homestand. All four contests will start at 7:05 p.m. and can be heard live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Smith (15, 16, 17), Atwal (2)
HFD: Bigras (2), Lettieri (18, 19), Labrie (18), Kotyk (1), Catenacci (5)
RCH: Johansson– 23/28 (L)
HFD: Mazanec – 22/26 (W)
RCH: PP (0/1) | PK (2/2)
HFD: PP (0/2) | PK (1/1)