(Rochester, NY) … The Rochester Americans (14-6-2-0) scored twice in each of the last periods and rode a 25-save effort from goaltender Jonas Johansson to defeat the Utica Comets (10-13-1-1) by a 5-2 decision Wednesday at The Blue Cross Arena.
With the three-goal win, the Amerks became the first team in the North Division this season to reach the 30-point plateau and hold a three-point lead over the Cleveland Monsters for first-place in the AHL’s North Division standings.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Forward Rasmus Asplund registered a career-high three-assist outing to give Rochester 30 out of a possible 40 points in the last 20 games. Wayne Simpson, Victor Olofsson and Matt Tennyson, who was reassigned by the Buffalo Sabres earlier today, all tallied a goal and an assist. C.J. Smith and Andrew MacWilliam rounded out the scoring while Johansson made his season debut after earning his first recall of the season from the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. The 23-year-old netminder stopped 25 of 27 to record his first AHL win of the year.
Blueliner Evan McEneny posted a pair of helpers for Utica, which entered tonight’s contest with 4-2-0-0 record in its last six outings, while Reid Boucher and Jonathan Dahlen added a goal apiece. Thatcher Demko, who made his fourth start in the last five games, made 22 saves but was handed the loss.
WATCH: JONAS JOHANSSON POST-GAME
Entering the third period with a 3-0 lead, the Amerks saw the Comets spoil Johansson’s bid for a shutout as they scored a pair of markers during the frame but Rochester answered each goal to come out with a 5-2 win.
“I felt really good,” said Johansson, who made just his 15th appearance as an Amerk. “I tried to stay calm during the game and just play my game as I was a little nervous. It was an opportunity to show what I can do at this level.”
Utica pulled Demko with just under five minutes left in the frame and Boucher made it two-goal game at the 15:46 mark. On the ensuing shift with the goaltender on the bench again, Smith slipped his seventh marker of the campaign into an empty Comets net just 22 seconds following Boucher’s team-leading 11th tally of the season.
WATCH: ANDREW MacWILLIAM POST-GAME
Just 1:08 after Smith restored Rochester’s three-goal cushion, Dahlen booked his fourth of the campaign while the Comets had the extra-attacker. Much like Smith, Simpson sealed the game as he found the back of another empty-net for his seventh of the season from Asplund and Tennyson while the Amerks were serving a cross-checking infraction.
With the 5-2 victory, Rochester has collected at least one point in 11 of the last 12 games against Utica dating back to the start of the 2017-18 season, going 6-1-2-3 during that span.
“I thought we started the game simple,” said MacWilliam. “We stuck to our game plan; getting pucks behind their defensemen, forechecking hard and forwards backchecking. When we play like that, we are a good hockey club and it is fun to watch.”
WATCH: RASMUS ASPLUND POST-GAME
As the first period was nearing its end, Olofsson gave the Amerks a 1-0 lead with 2:09 left in the stanza.
Picking up a loose puck in the right corner of his defensive zone, Brendan Guhle sprung Olofsson, Asplund and Zach Redmond on a 3-on-2 odd-man rush into the Comets end of the ice. As the two Swedes exchanged a give-and-go, Olofsson fired a shot from in-between the face-off dots to open the scoring.
“I liked how we started tonight,” Amerks head coach Chris Taylor said. “We were ready to play and we took it to them right away. It was evident we were ready to play and we were committed to the game plan.”
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
Rochester doubled its lead less than two minutes into the middle period as Tennyson snuck into the offensive zone from the right point and converted off a centering feed from Alexander Nylander that first caromed off the skate of Sean Malone.
Nearly 10 minutes after Tennyson’s first goal of the season, MacWilliam also tallied his inaugural goal of the campaign to give Rochester a 3-0 lead going into the third period.
While keeping the Comets in the defensive zone, Olofsson rimmed the puck around the boards to the opposite half-wall to a waiting Asplund. The forward, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday, slid the puck to the point. As he kept the puck inside the blueline, MacWilliam slapped it towards the cage and it pinballed its way past Demko at the 13:35 mark of the frame.
The goal was MacWilliam’s first since April 6, 2016 as a member of the Manitoba Moose.
Rochester and Utica each tallied a pair of goals during the final 20 minutes before the Amerks prevailed with the 5-2 victory.
The Amerks remain at home on Friday, Dec. 7 as they host the Providence Bruins for their lone trip to the Flower City at 7:05 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena. After the home matchup, Rochester makes its first trip back to Syracuse since the Opening Round of the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs for a clash with the Crunch on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 7:00 p.m. Both games will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Olofsson (8), Tennyson (1), MacWilliam (1 – GWG), C.J. Smith (7), Simpson (7)
UTI: Boucher (11), Dahlen (4)
ROC: Johansson – 25/27 (W)
UTI: Demko – 22/25 (L)
ROC: PP (0/2) | PK (3/3)
UTI: PP (0/3) | PK (2/2)
1. Victor Olofsson (ROC)
2. Rasmus Asplund (ROC)
3. Jonas Johansson (ROC)