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Amerks maintain division lead with 4-2 win over Cleveland

Rochester American Taylor Leier gives a slight cross check to Cleveland Monster defenseman Michael Prapavessis during Wednesday's 4-2 Amerks win at The Blue Cross Arena in the Rochester War Memorial. Leier scored the game-winning goal. Prapavessis played college hockey with RPI.

Photo courtesy of Micheline V/Rochester Americans

ROCHESTER - Zach Redmond was a welcome addition to the Rochester Americans lineup Wednesday.  The veteran defenseman had missed the last 11 hockey games but he showed he was back in form with a goal and an assist which earned him first star honors in a 4-2 win over the Cleveland Monsters.

Redmond's goal was his 20th of the season. He made him the first defenseman in team history to hit the 20-goal mark in a season as he continues to rewrite Rochester's record book.

“Tonight’s game was a good game to get back into the lineup,” commented Redmond, who recorded his second eight-shot game of the season. “With all the power-plays, that makes it easy to get a feel for the puck and get going again. It was a good team win and the feeling in the room is pretty good right now.”

After falling behind 2-1, the Amerks scored three goals over the final 22 minutes to notch their 32nd win of the 2018-19 season. Rochester improved to 32-16-3-2 while Cleveland Monsters dropped to 24-23-6-1. The Amerks continue to set the pace in the AHL's North Division with 69 points earned over 53 games played. They are trailed by the Syracuse Crunch, who have amassed 66 points in 51 games.

With this win, the Amerks have collected 23 of a possible 32 points in their last 16 games and improved to 25-6-2-3 against Cleveland since the start of the 2011-12 season, which includes a 5-1-0-0 mark this season.

Besides Redmond, Wayne Simpson and Danny O’Regan each netted their 18th goals of the season. Taylor Leier scored his 13th to complete Rochester's scoring. The team's third consecutive win was the 19th this year for goaltender Scott Wedgewood and the 100th victory of his professional career. Wedgewood sits 14th in AHL goalie standings with a 2.69 goals against average and a save percentage of .912. He was named the game's third star.

Cleveland, which is winless in its last three games, saw Paul Bittner and Tommy Cross score. Netminder Jean-Francois Berube, who appeared in his Eastern Conference-leading 37th game of the slate, made 29 saves in absorbing the loss.

Just 51 seconds after the Monsters took a 2-1 lead late in the second period while on the man-advantage, the Amerks returned the favor as O’Regan was credited with the game-tying goal. Redmond's shot from the point was tipped by O'Regan past Berube at 17:18 of the second, also on a power play. The Amerks rank seventh in the league with a power play percentage of 20.9 percent.

The Amerks took the lead at the 6:15 mark of the third period. Remi Elie skated with speed on the outside to Berube's left. His attempt at stuffing the puck behind Berube resulted in Leier powering it past a fallen Monster goalie. Elie was credited with an assist, his sixth point in six games since clearing waivers and joining the Amerks from the Buffalo Sabres. The second assist on the game-winning goal went to Andrew Oglevie.

Cleveland nearly forced overtime with less than six minutes left in regulation when Miles Koules had a breakaway attempt. Wedgewood came up with the big save on Koules however to maintain the slim advantage. Leier received second star honors. Cleveland pressed to tie it up, pulling their goalie in the last two minutes. Simpson sealed the 4-2 win with an empty-net goal. Assists went to Scott Wilson and Kevin Porter.

We had a good start to the game,said Porter, Rochester's captain. “The first 10 minutes of the first, we played really well as we had a lot of shots, good chances and kept it simple. While they tied the game, I thought we battled the whole 60 minutes and came out with two points.”

Redmond opened the scoring with just 2:45 gone in the opening period. Later in the opening period, the Monsters drew a pair of penalties in succession and capitalized on the second to even the game at 1-1.

Cleveland took a 2-1 lead at the 17:29 mark while on the man-advantage. The Amerks drew their own penalty and tied the game with 1:42 left in the stanza when O’Regan tipped Redmond's blast from the point. Victor Olofsson snapped a four-game scoring drought when he was given the second assist. The rookie from Sweden leads Rochester in scoring with 44 points in 50 games. That places him 21st in the league. Redmond holds 29th place in scoring with 41 points. C.J. Smith also has 41 points but he is currently on recall to the Sabres.

“I liked our first period,” Amerks head coach Chris Taylor said. “After we got a little undisciplined and gave up a couple power-play goals, I liked how we had to fight our way back. I thought we did a good job even when we were not at our best to come away with two points.”

The Amerks conclude the final full week of the month Friday, Feb. 22 when they visit the Utica Comets at 7 p.m. Utica is third in the North Division with 64 points in 54 games. Toronto also has 64 points in 54 games. Rounding out the North Division is Belleville with 60 points, Cleveland has 55. Laval and Binghamton each have 51 points, but Laval has a game in hand.

Rochester closes out its weekend when hosting the Belleville Senators at 7:05 p.m. Saturday on home ice. The contest is part of "Hometown Heroes Night."

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