ROCHESTER ROOKIE forward Lawrence Pilut has the puck go through his legs during a weekend loss to the Charlotte Checkers in an American Hockey League game. Pilut recorded two points in his first AHL game on a goal and an assist, but Rochester lost 6-2 Friday and 4-2 Saturday.
Photo by Micheline V/courtesy of the Rochester Americans
ROCHESTER – Unlike their parent Buffalo Sabres who were able to win in the second game of the new season after losing by four goals in their first, the Rochester Americans fell for a second time in two starts Saturday.
As did the Sabres, the Amerks played their first two games of the season on home ice. The Sabres lost their opener 4-0 to the Boston Bruins, but played a better game Saturday to defeat the New York Rangers, 3-1. The boys down on the farm however, lost 6-2 Friday on opening night and then took a 4-2 defeat Saturday. Both losses were to the Charlotte Checkers.
Saturday Eric Cornel and Wayne Simpson each tallied their first goals of the season while goaltender Scott Wedgewood made 28 saves while absorbing his second defeat.
Despite outshooting the Checkers 20-6 over the final 20 minutes of play, the Amerks were unable to find the back of the net to drop the second game of the weekend series.
“In the third period, we were much better,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “I thought we played as a five-man unit. We were pinching at the right times, the forwards were backing up and we were on our toes. Guys started to look comfortable and it’s going to take some time to get the results we’re hoping for.”
“We know it is going to take time and it is a process.”
Nicolas Roy led the Checkers to their second win as he posted a pair of goals and an assist to pick up his second three-point outing in as many nights. Andrew Poturalski and Morgan Geekie also found the back of the net for Charlotte while netminder Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 34 of 36 shots to earn his second win.
Charlotte, which led the AHL in scoring last season, opened the scoring three minutes into the game with Geekie’s first of the season before Cornel knotted the score as the teams went into the break tied at one.
Rochester grabbed its first lead just nine seconds into the middle period as Alexander Nylander sprung Simpson into the offensive zone. The forward roofed a shot to record his first point and goal as an Amerk while Nylander recorded his second assist of the night.
“We had a good forecheck to force a turnover,” said Simpson when describing his goal. “Nyls hit me with a pass in stride and I just tried to find an opening on the net. It felt good to get the first goal.”
Charlotte, however, countered with three unanswered scores to flip a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 advantage.
The Americans opened their 63rd AHL season and 37th as the primary affiliate of the Sabres Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena, but it was the Charlotte Checkers who earned a 6-2 victory.
Rookie forward Lawrence Pilut made an immediate impact in his North American debut, leading Rochester with a goal and an assist. Second-year forward and the team’s reigning Rookie of the Year C.J. Smith netted the other goal during the second period. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood, who also made his Rochester debut, made 33 saves.
Janne Kuokkanen had a game-high four points (2+2) for Charlotte, while Roy (2+1), Poturalski (1+2) and Spencer Smallman (0+2) all turned in multi-point efforts. Roland McKeown rounded out the scoring while Nedeljkovic stopped 22 of 24 shots to record the win.
Trailing 2-0 after one period, Rochester came out Friday in the middle frame and saw Smith cut the lead in half as he ripped a shot over the glove just 32 seconds in to the period. Pilut and Kyle Criscuolo teamed up to spring Smith into the offensive zone with Pilut recording his first AHL point on an assist.
Rochester drew its second power-play less than five minutes later and Pilut evened the game with his first AHL goal just 10 seconds into the man-advantage situation.
“Kevin Porter won the face-off back to me,” said Pilut. “I waited it out to find a lane, then I saw one and shot the puck. Luckily for me, I had a screen in front and it when into the net.”
Porter and Victor Olofsson, who also made his Amerks debut, each were awarded assists.
Charlotte was quick to regain the lead with just 46 seconds left in the period and took a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
“Any time you get scored on in the final minute of a period is tough,” said Criscuolo. “No matter the game it’s never easy, but we just have to look at the film and compete on every shift from top to bottom.”
The Checkers silenced any thought of an Amerks comeback as they scored three goals during the first-half of the final period and made it 6-2.
“We were not ready to play and it’s on me and the leadership team,” Porter said. “We dug ourselves a hole and we were able to battle back but credit them. They are a good team, but we made them look like NHL All-Stars tonight.”
“It’s disappointing,” said Taylor. “It was disappointing how we started the game, but the only bright spot was Wedgewood all night.”
Eight Amerks made their first appearance in the Rochester shield while four were appearing in their AHL debut.