(Syracuse, NY) … The Rochester Americans (24-13-2-4) scored once during each period before holding off the Syracuse Crunch (20-19-3-3) for a nail-biting 3-2 victory Saturday night at Upstate Medical University Arena.
The contest served as the front-end of a home-and-home series between the two teams that concludes on Friday, Jan. 31 after the annual AHL All-Star break. Additionally, it was the fifth meeting between the two clubs this season and all five have been one-goal outcomes.
The win gives Rochester three in a row going into the break and keeps them within four points of first place in the AHL’s North Division standings while holding two games in hand against the top-seeded Belleville Senators.
Forward Eric Cornel bagged his eighth of the season late in the first period while Andrew Oglevie and Jean-Sebastien Dea each scored their 13th goals of the slate during the second and third stanzas, respectively. With his goal, Dea (13+17) becomes the first Amerk skater this season to reach the 30-point mark. Goaltender Andrew Hammond entered the game winless in his last eight appearances but made a season-high 35 saves to improve to 11-9-2. The victory was the 100th of his professional career.
Cal Foote had a goal to go with an assist for the Crunch and Danick Martel rounded out the scoring as he added his 14th of the season. Netminder Spencer Martin (7-11-3) stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced but suffered the loss.
Holding a two-goal lead with nearly four minutes left in the contest, it appeared the Amerks were on their way to making it a 4-1 advantage as C.J. Smith left a pass for Rasmus Asplund just outside the Crunch blueline. With Martin on the bench for the extra attacker, a Syracuse skater dove at the last second, forcing Asplund to shoot high and the puck missed the vacant net.
Rochester then was whistled for a pair of penalties 67 seconds apart and the Crunch had a 6-on-3 advantage for the final 2:03 of regulation. Mathieu Joseph and Foote exchanged passes atop the point before Foote snapped a shot past the glove of Hammond that trimmed the score to 3-2 with 1:42 to play.
The Amerks still had to kill off the second infraction before holding on for the victory and were able do so, giving them three straight after going winless in the previous seven prior to this week.
The scoring started late in the first period as the matchup was scoreless in the final two minutes of the stanza. With the face-off to the right of Martin, Sean Malone won the draw and tied up the Crunch center at the dot. As the puck sat amid the battle for possession, Cornel scooped it up and fired it into the cage for his eighth of the campaign with 1:38 to go in the opening frame.
After taking the 1-0 lead into the dressing room, the Amerks quickly doubled their advantage as Oglevie skated with the puck through the neutral zone and inside the Syracuse blueline. While Asplund broke towards the left pad of Martin, Oglevie attempted to send a pass to the Swedish forward but the puck glanced off the inside skate of the goaltender to give Rochester a 2-0 cushion 61 seconds into the frame. It was Oglevie’s third goal in two games after the second-year pro scored twice last night against Laval.
The Crunch got on the board at the 14:59 mark of the second period but Dea restored the two-goal lead midway through the final frame while on the penalty kill. While the Amerks were serving a tripping penalty, Will Borgen cleared the puck the length of the ice and in-behind Martin. The Syracuse goaltender attempted to play the puck only to have it stolen away by Dea, who wrapped around the cage for his 13th of the campaign.
Syracuse scored late in regulation but Rochester held on for the 3-2 victory.
The Amerks return from the All-Star break on Friday, Jan. 31 with another go-around against the Crunch as the home-and-home series shifts to The Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. 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: E. Cornel (8), A. Oglevie (13), J. Dea (13 – GWG)
SYR: D. Martel (14), C. Foote (5)
ROC: A. Hammond – 35/37 (W)
SYR: S. Martin – 36/39 (L)
ROC: PP (0/2) | PK (3/4)
SYR: PP (1/4) | PK (2/2)
1. C. Foote (SYR)
2. A. Hammond (ROC)
3. T. Raddysh (SYR)