(Rochester, NY) … With a pair of quick first-period goals and a 20-save effort from veteran goaltender Andrew Hammond, the Rochester Americans (14-3-2-2) opened the final month of the calendar year on Wednesday with a 4-0 shutout win over the Toronto Marlies (15-4-2-1) at The Blue Cross Arena. The matchup was the first of a season-long four-game homestand and second between Rochester and Toronto in a five-day span.
The win pushed the Amerks’ point streak to 11 games (9-0-1-1), their first since an 11-game run from Oct. 12 to Nov. 10 during the 2009-10 season. Additionally, Rochester has now picked up points in 16 of the last 18 contests overall, going 12-2-2-2 over that span, while also earning 32 out of a possible 42 points through their first 21 contests of the campaign.
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Curtis Lazar and Casey Fitzgerald both recorded their second and third multi-point games of the season, respectively, with a goal and an assist each. Zach Redmond opened the scoring on the night with his third of year while second-year forward Pascal Aquin netted his first career AHL goal. Hammond (8-1-2), who appeared in his 200th pro game, picked up his first point as an Amerk while earning his third shutout of the season. More impressively, in his last seven starts, Hammond has posted five wins, three shutouts, a 1.32 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage.
The Marlies, who suffered their first road shutout since Feb. 22 of last season, had six players register a pair of shots while goaltender Joseph Woll made 27 saves in the losing effort.
WATCH: CURTIS LAZAR POST-GAME
After drawing a power-play just 43 seconds into the opening period, Rochester capitalized on the man-advantage as Lawrence Pilut sprung Redmond into the Marlies zone with an outlet pass through the center of the ice. As he stepped inside the blueline, Redmond quickly rifled a shot to the upper corner of the net to give the Amerks an early 1-0 lead just 1:01 into the contest.
Hammond began the power-play goal by handing a pass to Pilut to collect his first assist as an Amerk.
Nearly two minutes later, Brady Vail rimmed the puck around the boards inside the Marlies zone to John Gilmour atop the left point. The blueliner sent the puck towards Woll and Fitzgerald redirected it in-between the face-off dots. As the puck made its way towards the net, it bounced over the netminder before Aquin finished off the play at the 3:15 mark for his first goal at the AHL level.
WATCH: PASCAL AQUIN POST-GAME
“It’s a great feeling,” said a smiling Aquin when talking about his goal. “It was great to get it (the goal) early in the game on the first shift. We were having a good shift in the offensive zone and I saw the puck and I just tried to bury it into the net.”
The Amerks took a two-goal cushion into the break and made it 3-0 midway through the second stanza as Lazar and Jean-Sebastien Dea, both of whom were reassigned to Rochester earlier in the day by the Buffalo Sabres, teamed up for Lazar’s fifth tally of the season.
To close out the scoring on the night, Lazar handed Vail the puck in the left corner of the Marlies zone less than four minutes into the final period of regulation. Sneaking into the slot following a line change, Fitzgerald banged in his second of the season.
WATCH: CASEY FITZGERALD POST-GAME
“I just try to do whatever I can do to help the team win,” said Fitzgerald, who played forward for the fourth consecutive game. “I’m new to the position and I just try to give it everything I have whenever I get on the ice. Tonight I got rewarded with a goal and an assist, but much of the credit goes to my linemates (Aquin and Vail) as they were working hard to set me up, but it does feel good to contribute offensively.”
In addition to successfully clearing all three penalties over the course of the last 20 minutes of play, Hammond turned aside the final eight shots he faced in the frame to record his third shutout of season.
WATCH: ANDREW HAMMOND POST-GAME
“I don’t want to sound cliché, but I think it’s the way we have played lately,” said Hammond. “My approach lately is just making the key saves over the course of the game and my other routines have not changed.”
“Tonight was a total team shutout. The guys played great in front of me,” Hammond added. “They did not give up much, but even when they did, I wanted to be there for them.”
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
“Everyone played really well tonight,” Amerks head coach Chris Taylor said. “It’s obviously a team win, but I thought Hammond made some big saves whenever he needed to. We were a little sloppy in the second and third period as we allowed some chances that we normally do not give up, but Hammond came up big for us.
The Amerks continue their four-game homestand on Friday, Dec. 6 when they host the defending Calder Cup champion Charlotte Checkers at 7:05 p.m. in the first of back-to-back meetings at The Blue Cross Arena. The two teams will square off again the following night in Rochester to conclude the two-game set. Both matchups will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
ROC: Z. Redmond (3 – GWG), P. Aquin (1), C. Lazar (5), C. Fitzgerald (2)
ROC: A. Hammond – 20/20 (W)
TOR: J. Woll – 27/31 (L)
ROC: PP (1/4) | PK (3/3)
TOR: PP (0/3) | PK (3/4)
1. A. Hammond (ROC)
2. C. Lazar (ROC)
3. C. Fitzgerald (ROC)