Two weeked wins return Amerks to first place in division
Rochester Americans rookie Andrew Oglevie raises his stick in celebration of his goal Sunday afternoon against the Binghamton Devils. Photo courtesy of Micheline V of the Rochester Americans
ROCHESTER – While their parent club is being questioned if its 2018-19 season is “now toast” the Rochester Americans won two games this weekend to regain first place in the American Hockey League’s North Division. Saturday the Amerks needed the sixth round of a shootout to best the Syracuse Crunch in the Salt City. Sunday afternoon at home, another Empire State rival was defeated, as the Binghamton Devils were burned, 5-1.
Rochester owns a 31-16-3-2 record. Binghamton dropped to 23-27-5-0) this season. Rochester holds first place with 67 points in 52 games. Syracuse has 64 points in 50 games and Utica has 64 points accumulated through 54 games. By claiming two wins, the Amerks have earned 21 out of 30 points in their last 15 contests. The two AHL teams saw their parent clubs face off in New Jersey Sunday, with the Devil taking a 4-1 win over the sliding Buffalo Sabres.
The line of Remi Elie (1+1), Andrew Oglevie (1+1) and Taylor Leier (0+2) combined for six points while Yannick Veilleux, Wayne Simpson and Andrew MacWilliam rounded out the scoring for the Amerks. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood earned his 10th win in the last 13 games and set a career-high with his 18th, improving to 18-7-2 on the season as he stopped 27 shots on the afternoon.
Binghamton avoided a shutout when Colby Sissons tallied his second goal of the season. Goalie Mackenzie Blackwood made 32 saves in 49 minutes of action before being replaced by Evan Cormier for the final 11 minutes.
Just 35 seconds following a spirited fight between Amerk Dalton Smith and Devil Brandon Baddock, Simpson raced in with the puck behind a Devils defender and picked the top left corner of the net to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead 3:55 into the contest. Simpson’s 17th goal of the season, establishing a career high in 25 fewer games, was set-up by defensemen Will Borgen and Brendan Guhle.
Veilleux was credited with his fourth goal on a net-front redirection at the 11:27 mark to double Rochester’s lead. With bodies crashing toward Blackwood, Eric Cornel wrapped around the goal with the puck and flung it into the net. The shot glanced off Veilleux’ shorts on its way into the net.
After Sissons made it a one-goal game 3:16 into the second, Rochester scored twice to take a 4-1 lead into the final period. Midway through Oglevie notched his second goal of the season while Elie, who recently joined Rochester after clearing waivers from the Sabres, notched his third goal in the last four games at the 17:44 mark.
Rochester finished off the scoring when MacWilliam sent a one-time feed from fellow defenseman Matt Tennyson 8:47 into the final period. Elie was awarded the other assist on MacWilliam’s second goal of the year.
Saturday Taylor Leier, a recent roster addition acquired in a trade with Philadelphia for Justin Bailey, recorded the only goal in a six-round shootout to lift the Amerks past the Crunch, 3-2, at the War Memorial Arena. The win snapped a three-game skid and moved the Amerks back atop the AHL’s North Division standings.
With the victory, the Amerks reached the 30-win mark for the second straight season under head coach Chris Taylor. Taylor becomes the first Amerks head coach to lead his team to 30 or more wins in each of his first two seasons behind the bench since Rochester Hall of Famer Randy Cunneyworth, the winningest coach in franchise history.
While Leier scored his second shootout-clinching goal of the season for the Amerks, Elie and Borgen both converted their second goals this season. Former Syracuse and University of Minnesota netminder Adam Wilcox (9-6-3) stopped 29 shots in the game plus six more in the shoot-out to improve to 4-0-1 this season versus his former club.
Forwards Mitchell Stephens and Ross Colton both scored for the Crunch, while netminder Eddie Pasquale made 37 saves but took the shootout loss.
With the game tied at two following regulation, the two squads needed extra time to decide the outcome for the fourth time in six games, and the fifth time in the head-to-head series the final score would be a one-goal game.
Neither team could capitalize on a pair of prime scoring chances in the overtime period, including breakaway opportunities for each side. Syracuse elected to shoot first in each round and was denied on all six chances by Wilcox, while Pasquale nearly matched him as he stopped the first five Rochester shooters before Leier converted to secure the Amerks the extra point.
The Amerks have now earned a point in six of the seven games this season with the Crunch and show a 4-1-1-1 record in the 12-game series. Less than five minutes into the contest, the Amerks drew the game’s first penalty and quickly capitalized on the man-advantage as Elie jammed in his second goal of the season. On the ensuing face-off inside the Crunch zone after a boarding infraction, captain Kevin Porter fired a shot from along the left half-wall. Leier spotted the rebound and pushed it toward the top of the crease and Elie shoveled it overtop the netminder to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead 4:20 into the first period.
With the power-play goal, the Amerks, who own the AHL’s second-best road power-play percentage (26.2 percent), have scored a goal on the man-advantage in 13 of the last 15 games against the Crunch while going 17-for-71 during that span.
The Amerks took a 1-0 lead into the intermission break, and just 2:22 after seeing the Crunch even the score at 1-1 midway through the second period, Rochester reclaimed its one-goal lead. Sneaking into the center of the Crunch zone, Borgen fired a shot inside the right post for his second goal at the 9:39 mark. The score ended a 32-game scoreless drought for the first-year defenseman as Veilleux and Dalton Smith were credited with the assists.
The Amerks carried their 2-1 lead into the final period of regulation, but much like the second, Syracuse evened the score 1:53 in and ultimately forced the game to go beyond regulation. The Amerks had four shots during the overtime, which included a pair of optimum scoring chances, while the Crunch also had a breakaway, but the goaltenders stood tall.
Personnel moves – Monday Randy Sexton, Rochester’s general manager, announced the team had retuned former RIT player Myles Powell to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League. Sunday, the Sabres announced the recall of defenseman Casey Nelson. He had been with the Amerks on a conditioning assignment.