A season-high crowd of 9,771 watched the Rochester Americans close out the 2011 calendar year with a 5-4 loss against North Division rival Hamilton Bulldogs tonight at The Blue Cross Arena. Despite the loss, which snapped Rochester’s four-game winning streak, the Amerks remain in second place in the American Hockey League North Division standings with a 15-13-4-1 record.
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AUDIO: RON ROLSTON POSTGAME
“We had a great crowd tonight, first off. I thought that was one of the better games we’ve played in this stretch we’ve had,” said Amerks Head Coach Ron Rolston. “It’s really disappointing and frustrating overall because guys put it all on the line again for us tonight and we lost to Hamilton again.”
Derek Whitmore , Mark Voakes and Paul Szczechura each contributed a goal and an assist, while both Drew MacIntyre and David Leggio combined to make 25 saves, including 11 from Leggio in just over 19 minutes of relief work.
Leading Hamilton offensively was Mitch Wahl, who potted of pair of goals en route to earning first star accolades. The Bulldogs also received multi-point efforts from forwards Andrea Engqvist (1+1) and Aaron Palushaj (1+1), in addition to defenseman Frederic St-Denis, who finished with two assists. Robert Mayer earned his fourth win of the season, stopping 35 of 39 shots he faced.
The Bulldogs got on the board first in the contest after a shot by Palushaj was deflected and pushed in by Engqvist past MacIntyre just 5:56 into the opening frame.
The Amerks answered back just 1:48 later after a goal by Voakes that knotted the game at one. The goal came after Whitmore fed a pass to Szczechura camped on the right post, where he finished the play with a pass to the slot to Voakes, who had the whole net to shoot at and buried his fourth goal of the season.
Rochester took its first lead of the game at 16:18 of the period with a power-play goal by Phil Varone, with help from Marcus Foligno and T.J. Brennan. The goal extends Varone’s point streak to five games and gives Brennan a point in seven straight outings. Foligno also registered his fifth point in four games with the assist.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as the Bulldogs tied the game up at two just 81 seconds later after Wahl took a slap shot from the far right face-off circle for his first of the game and first goal of the season.
The Amerks regained the lead just 80 seconds into the second period after Mayer could not recover from a Drew Schiestel shot and the rebound allowed Whitmore to capitalize for his team-leading 14th goal of the season that made it a 3-2 game.
The Bulldogs would tie the game again after Gabriel Dumont darted to the net from the left corner and slammed the puck through MacIntyre for his fifth goal of the season. The goal would be unassisted at 11:55 of the second stanza.
Szczechura put Rochester back on top as he stole the puck from Bulldogs defenseman Mark Mitera and headed up ice from his own blueline. With Whitmore skating parallel with him on the two-on-one oddman rush, Szczechura elected for the pass, but his attempted feed caromed off former Amerk Joe Callahan’s right skate and eluded Mayer to make it 4-3 Amerks at 15:16.
Hamilton would once again rally from behind, this time 36 seconds later as Wahl struck again, picking the top right corner off a fast break to even the contest at four apiece.
Leggio entered the game to replace MacIntyre in the third, and after making some great saves in the early goings, Palushaj finally slipped one by the netminder to give Hamilton a 5-4 advantage 7:14 into the third period. With the Bulldogs on a 5-on-3 power-play, Palushaj jumped on an Engqvist rebound at the goal-mouth and converted on his third attempt for his sixth goal of the campaign that ultimately proved to be the game-winner.
Rochester ushers in the New Year with a three-game road swing, beginning on Friday, January 6 when they travel to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza to take on the East Division Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the second and final meeting this season between the two teams and can be heard live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.