(Rochester, NY) … The Rochester Americans (18-9-2-0) and Hartford Wolf Pack (13-14-1-2) combined for four goals in the second period before the Wolf Pack tacked on two more in the third to come away with a 4-2 win in the first of back-to-back meetings between the two teams Friday at The Blue Cross Arena. The loss was Rochester’s second straight this week, marking just the second time all season the Amerks were held winless in consecutive games.
Despite the loss, the Amerks have won seven of their last 11 games overall and maintain a three-point lead atop the AHL’s North Division standings heading into tomorrow night’s rematch with Hartford, the final game before the Christmas break.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Reigning Amerks Rookie of the Year C.J. Smith extended his goal-scoring streak to a career-best four straight games as he tallied a goal and an assist while Wayne Simpson chipped in his ninth marker of the campaign. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood appeared in his 14th game in the last 21 for the Amerks but suffered his second straight loss as he stopped 26 of 30 shots he faced. The netminder shows a record of 9-6-1 in 17 appearances this season with Rochester.
Hartford forward Vinni Lettieri registered a season-high three points as he led the Wolf Pack, who entered the matchup with 2-6-0-2 record in their last 10 contests, to the win. Steven Fogarty notched a pair of points (1+1) while John Gilmour and Chris Bigras rounded out the scoring for the visitors. Netminder Dustin Tokarski got the start in the crease and made 28 saves to improve his season record to 7-3-1 in 12 appearances.
WATCH: C.J. SMITH POST-GAME
After a scoreless first period and trailing 1-0 at the 12:13 mark of the middle frame, the Amerks countered with a pair of goals just 32 seconds apart to flip the deficit into a 2-1 advantage.
With the puck in the center of the Hartford zone, Simpson spun and fired off a backhanded shot that was denied by Tokarski. Smith somehow was able to gather the rebound through the ensuing scramble and dished a one-time feed to Simpson in-between the dots, where he made good on the second opportunity. Kyle Criscuolo, who returned the lineup tonight following a 19-game absence, also earned an assist on Simpson’s ninth of the season.
Continuing to ride the wave of energy, Rochester drew a penalty on the ensuing shift and needed only four seconds on the man-advantage to grab its first lead of the contest.
WATCH: WAYNE SIMPSON POST-GAME
A face-off win to the right of Tokarski by Danny O’Regan went right to Smith at the top of the zone. The second-year forward drifted to the center of the blueline before stepping into a shot that appeared to change before ultimately getting through traffic and past the Hartford netminder.
Smith’s 11th marker of the season with 3:22 left in the second period was the Amerks’ third straight game with a power-play goal, the longest since the club had scored in four consecutive contests with the extra man from Oct. 10 to Oct. 17.
“I feel pretty good with my game lately as the pucks seem to be going into the net,” Smith said. “I’ve had a good run and I’m just trying to stay consistent. I’m trying to continue to get better. It was nice to have ‘Crisco’ back in the lineup, but too bad we weren’t able to pull it out with the win tonight.”
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
Rochester’s 2-1 lead was short-lived as Lettieri jumped on a turnover at center ice and raced in all alone towards Wedgewood. He hesitated before tucking the puck past the sixth-year goaltender to even the score at 2-2 before the intermission break.
“After we grabbed the lead, we allowed a quick goal afterwards,” Simpson said. “I didn’t think we got going after that. It was unfortunate as we started to lose the one-on-one battles and sort of got undisciplined.”
Hartford used the late goal and grabbed a one-goal lead 5:35 into final period as Fogarty stuffed the puck just inside the right post seconds before Wedgewood could slide across his crease. The Wolf Pack doubled their lead seven minutes later to seize control of the game.
WATCH: BRIAN GIONTA ADDRESSES MEDIA PRE-GAME
Rochester attempted to mount a comeback as Wedgewood was pulled for the extra attacker for the final three minutes of the contest, but Tokarski and company remained calm and held on for the 4-2 win.
“We started off the game well and I thought we played a good game,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “It wasn’t until a couple turnovers cost us and another power-play goal. That hurt us, and our penalty kill has to step it up.”
The same two teams have another go-around to close out their back-to-back set on Saturday, December 22 at 5:05 p.m. All of the action from The Blue Cross Arena will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/ 95.7 FM ESPN Rochester and AHLTV.
ROC: Simpson (9), C.J. Smith (11)
HFD: Gilmour (7), Lettieri (6), Fogarty (8 – GWG), Bigras (2)
ROC: Wedgewood – 26/30 (L)
HFD: Tokarski – 28/30 (W)
ROC: PP (1/5) | PK (4/5)
HFD: PP (1/5) | PK (4/5)
1. Vinni Lettieri (HFD)
2. Steven Fogarty (HFD)
3. C.J. Smith (HFD)