Photo courtesy of Micheline V/Rochester Americans
ROCHESTER AMERICANS center Eric Cornel goes to his knees while surrounded by Toronto Marlies Thursday at HarborCenter in Buffalo. The Amerks opened their 2018-2019 preseason with a 4-2 win over the Marlies. C.J. Smith is the other Amerk shown.
BUFFALO – Entering the third period of Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Toronto Marlies, the Rochester Americans trailed 2-1. Second year head coach Chris Taylor saw his team respond with three third-period goals to come out on top, 4-2 at HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo.
The game was the first of a home-and-home series between the two teams.
“I thought it was a little bit of a slow start, but I liked how they picked it up as the game went on,” said coach Chris Taylor. “In the third period, we did a lot of great things and I really liked our compete tonight. Guys were physical and getting around the net.”
Newcomers Pascal Aquin (two goals) and Wayne Simpson (two assists) posted multi-point performances while the Amerks reigning Rookie of the Year C.J. Smith also chipped in a pair of assists. Veteran defenseman Nathan Paetsch opened the scoring for Rochester while third-year defenseman Arvin Atwal provided the game-winner late in the third period. Adam Wilcox made 19 saves in a winning effort in his preseason debut.
Sam Babintsev paced the Marlies with a goal and an assist while Matt Bradley recorded Toronto’s second score. Netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo took the loss after turning aside 27 of 30 shots.
The Marlies opened the scoring 17 seconds into their first power-play opportunity and held a 1-0 lead into the intermission. Rochester, however, responded 1:44 into the second when Paetsch’s shot from the point went in while Rochester had a man-advantage.
Toronto added its final goal of the night to take a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Aquin evened the game 3:34 into the third period as he redirected a Tobie Bisson shot past Kaskisuo.
“I was a little nervous at first,” said Aquin, who made his unofficial professional debut. “But after a few shifts I was able to calm down and play my game. I felt more and more confident as the game went on.”
As the Amerks continued to fire away at Kaskisuo, Rochester was rewarded for its strong third period. Atwal, who jumped into the rush from his defensive position, buried the game-winning goal as he found a loose rebound to the right of Kaskisuo after his initial save on a Smith shot.
Both Smith and Simpson were credited with their second assists on the tally with just under six minutes left in regulation.
“It was a weird play how Arvin slid a pass over to me and I just threw a shot on the net,” said Smith. “He was able to finish the play, so it turned out to be a really nice play.”
In an effort to final the equalizer, Toronto pulled Kaskisuo with 1:16 showing on the clock, but Aquin sealed the victory as he deposited the puck into the vacant net with an assist from Eric Cornel.
The same teams meet again Saturday, Sept. 29 as the home-and-home series shifts north of the border for a 4 p.m. matinee at Frank Doherty Arena in Thorold, Ontario. Rochester opens its 63rd AHL season Friday, Oct. 5 at 7:05 p.m. against the Charlotte Checkers at The Blue Cross Arena.