A very fast start and plenty of offensive firepower propelled the Rochester Americans to a 6-3 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs in a special afternoon matinee Monday at The Blue Cross Arena. With the win, the Amerks improve to 6-1-0-0 against their North Division rivals this season and have won the last four meetings with the Bulldogs.
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Kevin Porter (1+1), Rick Schofield (1+1) and Mark Mancari (0+2) each collected two points, while six different goal-scorers found the back of the net for Rochester, which has now won three straight and seven of its last nine games played within the friendly confines of its downtown barn. Amerks goaltender David Leggio continued to showcase his dominance over Hamilton, stopping 21 of 24 shots to maintain his spotless mark of 6-0-0 against the Bulldogs en route to collecting his 20th win of the campaign.
Louis Leblanc, Zack Stortini and Joey Tenute each tallied single goals and starting netminder Robert Mayer made 28 saves in the losing effort for the Bulldogs, who have now lost five straight and six of their last seven games.
A quick start spotted the Amerks to a 2-0 lead before the game was even a minute old, beginning with a goal from Kevin Sundher just 13 seconds into the contest. Porter found Sundher streaking in from the left side, and after ducking by a defender, the rookie forward shifted to his backhand and slipped a shot through the legs of Mayer to put Rochester up by one. Mancari also assisted on Sundher’s second goal of the season, giving the veteran forward five points (3+2) through his last six games.
Rochester built on its lead just 40 seconds later as Brayden McNabb sent a long stretch pass to Porter, who caught it in stride at the Hamilton blueline and fired a shot over the left shoulder of Mayer for his 12th goal of the season to make it a 2-0 game. The goal gives the Amerks captain seven points (2+5) in his last six games and it also marks his second multi-point effort over his last five outings.
The Amerks went up 3-0 as Rick Schofield set up Frederick Roy to give Rochester a three-goal cushion at 5:45 of the first period. Schofield intercepted an attempted clearing pass in the high slot, creating an excellent scoring chance, but he instead pulled up at the right faceoff circle and left it for a wide-open Roy.
The Bulldogs would rally, though, scoring their first of three straight goals on the power-play at the 8:15 mark of the period. Stefan Chaput’s centering feed from the right point caromed off the skate of an Amerks defenseman and right to Leblanc, who shoveled it in to the open net for a 3-1 score.
Stortini’s first goal of the season with assists from Philippe Lefebvre and former Amerk Kyle Hagel brought the Bulldogs within a goal at 16:52 before Tenute completed the comeback with a marker just 24 seconds into the middle frame. Tenute, a Hamilton native, stepped in front of Rochester’s clearing pass and boomed a shot past the unsuspecting Leggio to tie things up at three apiece.
The Amerks regained the lead 1:23 later with Schofield’s second point of the night and fifth goal of the season. A turnover deep in the Rochester zone sprung Phil Varone free as he led the transition the opposite way. Once he gained the Hamilton blueline, Varone dropped it for Schofield at the top of the left circle, where he beat Mayer five-hole to put Rochester back on top 4-3. Schiestel also registered his first point of the season with an assist on the go-ahead goal.
Newcomer Adam Pardy helped the Amerks to a 5-3 advantage, setting up Evan Rankin for an easy tap-in at 8:42 of the second stanza. Pardy, who was playing in just his second game with the Amerks, left his post at the right point to join the offensive rush in the near corner. Pardy emerged with the loose puck, darted to the net and made a goal-mouth pass to Rankin, who accepted the offer with his skate, kicked it up to his stick and poked it over the goal-line. Pardy notched his first point as an Amerk with the assist, while Alex Biega also earned a helper.
Brian Flynn put the exclamation mark on the 6-3 win for Rochester, deflecting a perfect feed from Mancari to the top corner of the net on the power-play at 14:15 of the final frame.
The Amerks remain at home on Friday, Jan. 25 as they close out their season series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be the second and final meeting between the two teams this season and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK.