(Hamilton, ON)… The Rochester Americans scored three goals in the second period to erase a two-goal deficit, but couldn’t complete the comeback as Louis Leblanc’s second goal of the game with 1:26 left in overtime lifted the Hamilton Bulldogs to a 4-3 win Friday at Copps Coliseum. The win drops the Amerks to 3-2-1-0 on the season.
Brayden McNabb led the Amerks with a goal and an assist while Luke Adam scored for the sixth time in six games and Phil Varone stretched his point streak to six games with another assist. Frederick Roy also found the back of the net for Rochester, which also received 28 saves from goaltender Nathan Lieuwen, who was making his second start of the season between the pipes.
Leblanc (2+0) and Magnus Nygren (1+1) led the Bulldogs with two points apiece and Robert Mayer stopped 27 of 30 shots he faced to pick up first win of the campaign. Hamilton improves to 3-1-0-2 with the win and moves into a first-place tie with the Toronto Marlies atop the American Hockey League’s North Division standings.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a power-play tally from former Amerk Nick Tarnasky midway through the opening period. Hamilton’s Erik Nystrom started the play with a drive to the net-front, but it would soon be rebuffed by a stick-check from Amerks defenseman Jerome Gauthier-Leduc. The puck, however, squirted free to the deep slot, where a waiting Tarnasky picked it up and put a low shot inside the far post for his team-leading fourth goal of the season.
Hamilton increased its lead to a pair just 2:10 into the middle frame with its second power-play marker of the game. Leblanc took a Ben Duffy drop pass off the left half-wall, curled around the face-off circle and wristed a shot over the left shoulder of Lieuwen to make it a 2-0 game.
The Amerks would respond just over five minutes later with a power-play goal of their own with Adam continuing his hot streak. Adam finished off a perfectly executed tic-tac-toe passing play that began with McNabb setting up Alexander Sulzer, who then one-touched a cross-ice pass back to Adam for the easy tap-in. The goal gives Adam six in as many games on the young season.
Hamilton quickly regained its two-goal advantage, though, as Sven Andrighetto set up Nygren 1:03 later with a one-timer from the point that sailed past a screened Lieuwen. Martin St. Pierre also assisted on Nygren’s first of the season.
Rochester again pulled within a goal after Roy converted Colton Gillies’ rebound for his first of the season at 10:52. Gillies’ shot from the left face-off dot missed high and wide of the net, but Roy corralled the loose puck from behind the Hamilton cage and stuffed the wraparound by Mayer before the Hamilton netminder could get his foot to the left post. Colin Jacobs also drew an assist on the play to cut the Amerks’ deficit to one.
A late goal by McNabb with five seconds remaining in the second period knotted the score at 3-3. McNabb’s initial shot was knocked down in the slot, but after a rather fortunate bounce, the Amerk defenseman was able to gather his own rebound and made good on the second opportunity with a blast from just inside the blueline for his first of the campaign. With the primary assist on the goal, forward Varone has recorded at least one point in each of his first six games this season and currently owns the AHL’s longest active assist streak over that span.
Rochester nearly took its first lead of the night with 3:25 left to play as Chad Ruhwedel sprung Adam free with an outlet pass up the middle for a potential game-winning breakaway. Adam seemingly had Mayer beat, but the goaltender kicked out his right leg at the last second to deny the sure goal with a toe save to keep the contest locked in a 3-3 standstill and ultimately force overtime.
After several big saves by Lieuwen in the early stages of the extra frame, it was Leblanc who secured the win for Hamilton with 1:26 remaining when he roofed a Gabriel Dumont rebound with a back-hand to the top left corner.
The Amerks remain in Southern Ontario on Saturday, Oct. 26 as they wrap up the weekend with another go-around with North Division rival Toronto Marlies at Rico Coliseum. The 5:00 p.m. matchup will be the second encounter in eight days between the two teams with all the action being carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK.