The Rochester Americans and Syracuse Crunch closed out their season series Saturday at the War Memorial at Oncenter, where Brett Connolly’s hat trick powered Syracuse to a 5-1 win over the Amerks in the final meeting of the season between the intrastate rivals.
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Connolly, back with the Crunch following an NHL stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning, netted the game’s first two goals, including the eventual game-winner, while Tyler Johnson, who was also reassigned to Syracuse yesterday from the Lightning, notched two points (1+1) in the win. J.T. Wyman rounded out the scoring for the Crunch and Ondrej Palat tabbed two assists behind a 20-save effort from goaltender Cedrick Desjardins.
Alex Biega potted the lone goal for Rochester and David Leggio made 28 saves in the loss for the Amerks, who saw their three-game winning streak snapped. Despite the setback, though, Rochester remains tied for fifth in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference standings with just four games left to play in the 2012-13 regular season.
Syracuse opened up the scoring early in the first period when Connolly scored his 28th goal of the season. Connolly carried the puck into the Rochester zone on a rush opportunity, and with his momentum carrying him toward the right wing boards, fired a wrist shot from the right face-off circle against the grain and into the top left corner of the net to give the Crunch a 1-0 advantage at the 1:37 mark of the opening period. Vlad Namestnikov and Dmitry Korobov were credited with the assists on the goal.
Connolly added his second of the night on a power-play at 8:28 of the middle frame. With the puck loose in the slot, Johnson gained control and found Connolly alone on the weak-side post, and Connolly jammed it home for his 29th goal of the season to give Syracuse a 2-0 lead.
Palat, who picked up the secondary assist on Connolly’s power-play goal, would then help give the Crunch a 3-0 lead less than two minutes later. With the Crunch again skating with the man-advantage, a wild scramble in the Rochester crease ended with Johnson finding a way to slip the puck over the goal-line. Palat and Matt Taormina assisted on the goal.
In the closing seconds of the second period, Syracuse took a 4-0 lead when J.P. Cote’s slap-shot from the left point made its way through traffic and was tipped in by Wyman for the goal. Early on in the third period, Connolly would complete his hat trick by scoring his 30th goal of the season to make it a 5-0 game.
Biega scored his fifth goal of the season to make it 5-1 at 4:53 of the third period. Amerks leading scorer Mark Mancari got the puck behind the Crunch net and made a centering pass to Matt Ellis in the high slot. The Amerks captain then found Biega streaking down the left side and fed him for a one-timer, which Biega blasted in past Desjardins to get Rochester on the board. With the assist, Mancari recorded his team-leading 60th point of the season, marking the fourth time in his career he has reached the 60-point plateau.
The Amerks will bring the weekend to a close on Sunday, April 14 in the State’s Capital District, where for the second straight week, Rochester will take on the intrastate rival Albany Devils in a 3:00 p.m. matinee at the Times Union Center. Fans can tune in for all the live action on Sports 1280 WHTK.