Marcus Foligno scored 2:40 into the extra fame and T.J. Brennan finished with a career-high five points (2+3) to propel the Rochester Americans to a 7-6 overtime win over the Lake Erie Monsters Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The game was the first of a two-game set between the North Division rivals, which resumes on Friday at the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo.
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Trailing 6-5 late in the third period, Mark Mancari scored the game-tying goal at 14:41 of the final frame to set the stage for Foligno’s winner, marking the second straight game against Lake Erie the veteran forward would help the team rally from behind. Mancari also scored the equalizer that sparked Rochester’s 7-6 come-from-behind win over the Monsters back on Dec. 13 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Brennan factored in on five of Rochester’s seven goals, including the Amerks’ three first period tallies. Cody Hodgson also recorded three points (2+1), including the lone assist on Foligno’s game-winner, while David Leggio made 32 saves to improve to 13-8-1 on the season. Brayden McNabb and Brian Flynn also contributed a pair of assists each in the win.
David van der Gulik led the way for the Monsters with a pair of goals, while Andrew Agozzino (0+2), Dean Strong (0+2) and Karl Stollery (1+1) each collected two-point games as well. Calvin Pickard made 26 saves in the losing effort.
The Monsters took an early 1-0 lead just 1:53 into the first period as Brad Malone beat Leggio with a high wrist shot for his sixth goal of the season. Strong made a nice play at the Rochester blueline to keep the puck in the zone and found Malone stationed at the left face-off circle. Malone, who snuck behind the Amerks defensemen, received the pass and snapped a quick shot under the crossbar to put the Monsters on top.
Rochester countered three minutes later with a power-play goal from Evan Rankin to tie things up at one apiece. McNabb set up Brennan with a great scoring chance from the top of the right circle, but Rankin, who was providing a screen in front of Pickard, tipped the shot through the Lake Erie netminder’s legs to make it a 1-1 game.
Lake Erie would quickly regain the lead 3:30 later as Mike Connolly knocked home Strong’s rebound to put the Monsters ahead 2-1. Strong’s initial shot from the left point was batted down by Leggio, but the rebound would bounce to the right of the Rochester cage, where a waiting Connolly chipped it over the sprawled Amerk goaltender for his fourth of the campaign.
The Amerks took their first lead of the night with a pair of goals in the final 3:45 to play in the first, beginning with a shorthanded tally from Cody Hodgson. With Marcus Foligno in the box serving two minutes for boarding, rookie forward Flynn led the rush out of the Rochester zone along the left wing boards, but was immediately pressured at the Amerks bench. Brennan, who was trailing the play, corralled the loose puck just outside his blueline and sprung Hodgson free on a breakaway to beat Pickard with well-placed shot to the top right corner.
Then, with just 15 seconds left in the first period, the Amerks struck again on the power-play. After Brennan attempted to set up Mark Mancari from the high slot, Mancari returned the pass to Brennan, who boomed a one-timer past Pickard for his third point of the period and his team-leading 12th goal of the season to give the Amerks a 3-2 advantage heading into the first intermission.
The high-scoring affair continued into the early goings of the second stanza as David van der Gulik found the back of the net just 26 seconds in to knot the contest at 3-3. Paul Carey and Andrew Agozzino each assisted on the play, helping the AHL’s reigning Player of the Week extend his goal-scoring streak to five consecutive games.
Jamie MacQueen restored Lake Erie’s lead 3:22 later, finishing off a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play to put the visitors up 4-3. Patrick Bordeleau collected a loose puck behind the Rochester net and slid a pass up to Mathieu Roy, who was coming to provide support. Roy then shoveled it over to a breaking MacQueen, who simply redirected Roy’s feed to the top left corner of the net for his second goal in as many games.
Stollery would make it a 5-3 game with 35 seconds left in the middle frame, but Rochester would stage another late-game rally to tie the game at 5-5. First, Hodgson swept in Brian Flynn’s rebound following a net-front scramble, and minutes later, Brennan potted his second of the game as a result of an fortunate bounce that made its way to the back of the Lake Erie net.
van der Gulik put Lake Erie back on top at 11:22 of the third with a shorthanded breakaway, but Mancari’s shot from the right circle glanced off Pickard’s glove and off the bar to even the game at 6-6.
Foligno then sealed the win for the Amerks, capitalizing on Hodgson’s rebound to lift the Amerks to their second consecutive 7-6 win over the Monsters.
The same two teams will meet again on Friday, Dec. 28 as the two-game set shifts to the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK and will also be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.