Zach Redmond, Rochester Americans defenseman, has been named first star in each of the last two Rochester wins. Friday he scored the game winning goal, his team-leading 21st, 38 seconds into overtime as the Amerks defeated the Utica Comets 4-3.
Photos courtesy of Micheline V/Rochester Americans
UTICA - Following a scoreless first 20 minutes Friday night, the Utica Comets struck for three quick goals against the Rochester Amerks. But the Comes could not continue their onslaught on Rochester goaltender Scott Wedgewood and the Amerks rallied to tie the game before the end of the second period. Neither team could score in the third 20 minutes so the contest went into overtime.
A Utica penalty allowed the North Division's first-place Amerks the opportunity to cap their rally just 38 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 win on the 21st goal of the season by defenseman Zach Redmond. For the second straight game, Redmond was named the first star. Remi Elie, who also scored a Rochester goal, his fourth of the season, earned third star honors.
Redmond, who missed 11 games with an injury prior to returning for Wednesday's win over the Syracuse Crunch, turned in his third consecutive multi-point game with two assists to go with the game-winning goal. That goal was Redmond's team-leading 21st of the season as he continues to build upon his Rochester season record for goals by a blue-liner. Wayne Simpson, scoring for the third straight game, and rookie Victor Olofsson each recorded a goal and later set-up Redmond in overtime. Olofsson's Swedish countryman Rasmus Asplund had a two-assist night. Elie extended his point streak to four games with his fourth goal in the last six games. Wedgewood improved to 20-7-2 on the season, stopping 16 of 19 shots he faced.
Three of Rochester's goals came on the power play. The three for four game improved Rochester's power play percentage to 21.8 percent. The Amerks have scored 45 times in 206 opportunities. In penalty killing, Rochester has allowed 38 goals in 222 shorthanded situations for a success rate of 82.9 percent. In overtime games this season the Amerks now show a record of four wins, three loses, five shootout wins and two shootout losses.
The come-from-behind win moved Rochester six points ahead of the Comets, who stand third in the AHL's North Division. Rochester also has a game in hand on the Comets. The fourth straight win improved the Amerks record to 33 wins, 16 losses, three overtime losses and the two defeats in shootouts. Utica fell to 29-19-5-2. The Crunch stayed three points behind the Amerks with 68, and Syracuse has played two less games than Rochester.
With the win, the Amerks have earned at least one point in 13 of the last 16 games against Utica dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign. Rochester's 71 points is good for second overall in the AHL with only the Charlotte Checkers above them. Charlotte has amassed 77 points in 56 games.
Utica's Tanner Kero, second star Reid Gardiner and Guillaume Brisebois each put a puck behind Wedgewood. Utica scored the game’s first two goals 59 seconds apart before adding the third 7:09 into the period. Then it was the Amerks turn as they responded with goals in a span of 5:56 against netminder Ivan Kulbakov. He finished with 32 saves on 36 shots.
Nearly a minute into the Amerks third power-play of the night, Asplund raced to keep the puck from exiting the Comets zone. His no-look pass sent the puck onto the stick of Olofsson. After gathering the pass, the Swedish forward rifled his 20th goal of the season behind Kulbakov to put Rochester on the board. It’s the second straight year Olofsson reached the 20-goal mark. He lead the Swedish Hockey League with 27 last season.
Five minutes later, Andrew MacWilliam collected a loose puck inside the Amerks end of the ice after a defensive zone face-off to spring Simpson on a breakaway. Collecting the puck near center ice, Simpson raced in on Kulbakov and backhanded a shot over the right pad to cut Rochester's deficit to one with 2:55 left in the second. Elie drove home a cross-ice pass from Asplund and Redmond while on the man-advantage at the 18:20 mark to tie the score.
As the third period was drawing to a close, the Amerks’ penalty kill unit drew a high-sticking infraction with 1:06 left in regulation. When regulation time expired the Amerks still had 46 seconds of a power play opportunity for 46 seconds.
Controlling play in the Comets zone at the start of extra time, Simpson sent Redmond a perfect one-time feed from the left face-off dot. After the initial attempt failed, Redmond blasted his 21st just inside the left post 38 seconds into OT.
Rochester came home to host the Belleville Senators Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7:05 p.m. before bringing the month of February to a close with a return trip to Utica Wednesday, Feb. 27.
PERSONNEL MOVE - The Amerks parent club, the Buffalo Sabres, have announced the return to Rochester of forward C.J. Smith. In 11 games over two recalls this season, Smith scored two goals for the Sabres. In 41 games with the Americans, he has 41 points including 18 goals.
Forward Remi Elie has tallied four goals and three assists since joining the Rochester Americans. Elie started the season with the parent Buffalo Sabres but saw limited action. He had to clear waivers before he could join the Amerks. He was named third star in Rochester's win at Utica Feb. 22.