Amerks on three-game victory streak

 Photo courtesy of Micheline V/Rochester Americans

WHILE ROOKIE forward Rasmus Asplund (26) looks on at left, and defenseman Zach Redmond (22) is prone on the ice, second-year Rochester Americans goaltender Adam Wilcox (32) reacts as a shot goes over the net in the Oct. 10 win over the Syracuse Crunch. It was the Amerks first win after two home losses. They then went on the road and won two from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, with Wilcox recording his second victory against no losses.

Following a disappointing two losses in their first two home games, the Rochester Americans won their first game of the season at home and then embarked on a three-game trip which ends Wednesday at Utica. The first two of those road games were in Connecticut and the outcome was two wins for Rochester against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

After setting up the game-tying goal in the third period to force overtime during Sunday afternoon’s game, rookie forward Victor Olofsson delivered the game-winning goal just 1:46 into OT to give Rochester a 3-2 victory at the Webster Bank Arena.

With the two wins over the Sound Tigers, the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, Rochester improved to 4-1-1-0 in the last six meetings against Bridgeport. Additionally, Rochester won back-to-back games in Bridgeport for the first time in franchise history.

For a third consecutive contest, Olofsson (1+1) tallied a multi-point game to help lead Rochester while second-year defenseman Brendan Guhle added a pair of assists for his first two-point outing of the season. Zach Redmond recorded his second goal of the young season while Eric Cornel also recorded his second of the campaign. Goaltender Adam Wilcox, making his second start in the last three contests, finished with 15 saves to gain his second win of the season. Dating back to the end of the 2017-18 season, Wilcox boasts a 4-0-1 record in his last five appearances.

The Sound Tigers tallied a pair of second-period goals and took a 2-1 lead into the final period. However, a late penalty gave the Amerks a full two minutes of power-play time to begin the final 20 minutes of regulation.

Only 48 seconds were needed to even the game as Redmond gave the club its league-leading seventh power-play goal of the season. Assists went to Olofsson and Lawrence Pilut. The goal was Redmond’s seventh point of the season, which paces all AHL defensemen, and Olofsson’s fifth assist while on the man-advantage that leads all AHL skaters.

 The two teams traded a shot early in overtime, but Guhle collected the puck in front of Wilcox and gave it to Olofsson near the center-ice dot. The Swedish forward entered the offensive zone 1-on-3 but he quickly fired a shot that glanced off the inside of left post to complete the two-game weekend sweep.

Cornel gave the Amerks a 1-0 lead after the first period as he redirected his second goal of the season at the 15:11 mark from Guhle and Alex Nylander. With the helper, Nylander has five assists in his last four games while Guhle earned an assist for the second straight night after being held without a point in the first three contests of the year. 

Rochester faced a 3-1 deficit midway through the second period of the first game of the weekend-series with the Sound Tigers. The Americans answered with three straight goals, including in the final minute from Oloffson to earn a 4-3 come-from-behind win at.

Olofsson (1+1) and veteran defenseman Redmond (0+2) each booked multi-point performances for the Amerks. Kevin Porter and Nylander each scored their first goals of the campaign while C.J. Smith added his then team-leading third tally in Rochester’s first four games. Scott Wedgewood stopped 20 of 23 to record his first win while wearing the red, white and blue. 

Moments after an Amerks’ power play had expired, Guhle fired a shot from just inside the Sound Tigers blueline. It appeared Sound Tigers goalie Christopher Gibson was going to force a whistle, but Smith was able to dig the puck out before the goaltender could glove it and slipped it over the goal-line to trim the Bridgeport lead to 3-2 with 4:30 left.

Guhle and Justin Bailey each were credited with helpers on Smith’s goal.

Before the final period reached the five-minute mark, the Amerks drew a pair of cross-checking infractions and skated on a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:22. Rochester controlled the puck for much of the first-half of the penalty before Nylander rocketed a cross-ice feed from Olofsson to knot the score at three with 14:26 left in regulation.

It was the Amerks’ second power-play goal of the game and fifth in the last two games.

Redmond and Olofsson each picked up their American Hockey League-leading fourth power-play assist on Nylander’s first goal of the season. As for Nylander, the third-year pro shows four points (1+3) over his last three games and is fourth among the team’s skaters with eight shots.

Before the Amerks finished the come-from-behind win they were forced to kill off their own 5-on-3 disadvantage for an entire two minutes inside the final 4:14 of regulation.

Much like the Rochester shorthanded unit had done in the three previous penalties in the game, the Amerks successfully killed off the penalties and seized momentum.

As an overtime period loomed, Danny O’Regan forced a turnover in the neutral zone that Olofsson flagged down near the offensive zone. Protecting the puck as he entered Bridgeport zone, he sent a backhanded-shot over the left shoulder of the unsuspecting Gibson to give Rochester its first lead of the afternoon with one-minute left in the game.

The goal was Olofsson’s fifth point (2+3) in the two games, giving him a share of the league’s scoring lead among all AHL first-year skaters.

Despite Bridgeport pulling Gibson for the final 60 seconds, the Amerks held off the attack to earn the 4-3 come-from-behind victory.

Finally claiming a win on home ice, the Amerks were aided by three power-play goals and a shorthanded marker to defeat North Division rival Syracuse Crunch 6-3 Oct. 10 at The Blue Cross Arena.

Defenseman Redmond and rookie forward Olofsson each recorded a game-high three points (1+2) for the Amerks while Kyle Criscuolo, Danny O’Regan, C.J. Smith and rookie Lawrence Pilut all added a goal and an assist. Former Syracuse goaltender Adam Wilcox, appearing in his season debut for Rochester, turned aside 30 shots to pick up his first win of the year.

Following a first period where each team scored a goal, Rochester’s offense erupted for three more in a span of 5:01 to claim a 4-1 lead. “Getting the lead tonight was a big key,” said Criscuolo. “Playing with the lead is a huge help. It’s a lot easier when the team has the lead in hockey because the game comes to you rather than trying to chase the game.”

Smith and Criscuolo teamed up for a shorthanded goal at the 12:55 mark of the stanza and once more to double the Amerks lead less than 97 seconds later.

“C.J. and I have played together every game plus with (Andrew) Oglevie, who adds some speed and grittiness, we seem to have some chemistry,” noted Criscuolo.

Redmond added his first goal of the season from Pilut and Olofsson at the 12:06 mark to push the Amerks score to 4-1.

Syracuse trimmed the Amerks lead in half before the end of the half-way point of the period, with Rochester up 4-2.

Pilut, who led all American Hockey League first-year defenseman with four points (2+2) after this game, regained Rochester’s three-goal cushion as he roofed another power-play goal 2:55 into the third period.

“We don’t want to count on special teams to win us games, but we have some skill and young guys who know what they are doing on those units,” said Redmond when talking about the power-play and penalty kill units. “It was a good step for us and to help build our confidence.”

The teams traded goals during the final 17:05 which included Olofsson’s first-career AHL goal, but Rochester did not let the visitors get any closer as they doubled up Syracuse for a 6-3 victory.

“It was a great night,” Olofsson said after the win. “We played great as a team and it feels great to get that first goal. Every game and each day, I’m getting used to the smaller ice.”

Of the eight Rochester skaters to record a point, six posted a multi-point effort while all but one of the Amerks registered a shot on net.

“It’s good for everyone’s confidence,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “We didn’t have a great start, but Wilcox played well and kept us into the game. As the game went on, I thought we scored some timely goals and got some key saves. It was a great win.”

Rochester announced Tuesday that the parent Buffalo Sabres had sent defenseman Matt Tennyson to the Amerks after fellow defenseman Zach Bogosian was activated from the injured reserve list.

The Amerks close out their three-game road swing Wednesday, Oct. 17 when they face North Division rival Utica Comets at the Adirondack Bank Center. The 7 p.m. contest will be the first of 10 scheduled meetings between the two teams this season and can be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.

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