(Cleveland, OH) … After seeing the Cleveland Monsters (13-10-4-0) tie Saturday’s rematch at Quicken Loans Arena late in the closing minutes of regulation, Rochester Americans’ (18-7-2-0) reigning Rookie of the Year C.J. Smith scored the overtime-winning goal 3:32 into the extra frame to give the Amerks a 2-1 victory over their North Division rivals.
The win completes the weekend sweep for Rochester, which bested Cleveland by a 3-1 score last night on home ice, and improves the Amerks to 23-5-2-3 in their last 33 games against the Monsters dating back to the start of the 2011-12 campaign. Additionally, the Amerks have won seven of their last nine games overall while also earning 38 out of a possible 50 points in the last 25 contests. Rochester now has a six-point lead atop the AHL’s North Division standings heading into the final week before the Christmas break.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Along with Smith’s eighth tally of the season, second-year defenseman Brendan Guhle also scored for the Amerks, who have claimed the first three games this season against Cleveland. Goaltender Adam Wilcox recorded his seventh win of the campaign as he turned aside 30 of the 31 shots he faced on the night, coming within just minutes of his first shutout as an Amerk. In 12 appearances this year, Wilcox shows a 7-2-1 record.
Cleveland, which entered the matchup with a 6-4-2-0 record in its last 12 games, spoiled Wilcox’s bid for a shutout thanks to Nathan Gerbe’s sixth goal of the season with 3:11 remaining in regulation that forced overtime. Matiss Kivlenieks equaled a career-best 37 saves but left the game in the final minute due to an apparent injury. Jean-Francois Berube, who entered the game with 52 seconds left in regulation, suffered the overtime loss as he stopped three of the four shots he saw in 4:24 of relief effort.
Holding a 1-0 lead as the third-period clock was dwindling down, the Amerks attempted to clear the puck off the glass and out of their zone. The puck, however, sailed into the nearby stands, resulting in a Cleveland power-play with 3:17 left in regulation.
The Monsters needed only six seconds of the ensuing man-advantage as Gerbe, the Cleveland captain and former Buffalo Sabres forward, knotted the score at 1-1, which set-up the overtime period.
Rochester nor Cleveland generated much offensively in the first half of the extra session before Justin Bailey carried the puck into the Monsters zone. Bailey tried to stop inside the blueline but the puck got tangled up in the skates of a Cleveland defender. After Bailey dug the puck out, he slid a pass to Danny O’Regan to the right of Berube. O’Regan fired a shot off the pads of the netminder and Smith buried the rebound to give the Amerks the 2-1 overtime win with 1:28 to spare in the extra period.
Similar to last night’s home-and-home opener between Rochester and Cleveland, the matchup was scoreless after the first intermission.
The game, which was the first in Cleveland since Apr. 10, 2016, remained scoreless until the Amerks took a 1-0 lead with just under three minutes showing on the second-period clock.
Before the end of the Amerks’ third power-play of the night late in the middle frame, Guhle received a Wayne Simpson centering a pass atop the right face-off dot. After dusting the puck off, the second-year blueliner wristed it past the glove of the Monsters netminder, breaking the deadlock at the 17:12 mark of the stanza.
Simpson and Zach Redmond were credited with the assists on Guhle’s third power-play goal of the season. The tally ended Guhle’s career-long 16-game goal-scoring drought, while Simpson, the AHL’s reigning iron man who was appearing in his 214th consecutive AHL game, recorded his eighth point (4+4) in his last 10 contests.
Rochester carried its one-goal lead into the final period. Despite seeing Gerbe tie the game late in regulation, the Amerks earned the extra point as Smith scored the overtime-winning goal at the 3:32 mark.
The Amerks return to action on Wednesday, Dec. 19 as they welcome the Belleville Senators back to The Blue Cross Arena to kick start a three-game homestand before the Christmas break. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/ 95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Guhle (3), C.J. Smith (8 – OT GWG)
CLE: Gerbe (6)
ROC: Wilcox – 30/31 (W)
CLE: Kivlenieks – 37/38 (ND) | Jean-Francois Berube – 3/4 (OTL)
ROC: PP (1/6) | PK (2/3)
CLE: PP (1/3)| PK (5/6)
1. C.J. Smith (ROC)
2. Adam Wilcox (ROC)
3. Nathan Gerbe (CLE)