Colin Smith scored the game-deciding goal in the fourth round of the shootout as the Lake Erie Monsters defeated the Rochester Americans 2-1 in a physical Veteran’s Day affair Monday afternoon at The Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks drop to 5-3-2-2 on the season, but take over first place in the American Hockey League’s North Division standings after claiming points in eight of their last nine games.
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Patrick Kaleta scored the lone goal shorthanded and Matt Hackett made 28 saves in the loss for the Amerks. The goal was Kaleta’s first as an Amerk since a three-point outing against the Chicago Wolves on Dec. 13, 2007. The tally also marked Rochester’s first shorthanded goal of the season.
For Lake Erie, Calvin Pickard made 34 saves to earn the win, and Stefan Elliott scored the only goal in regulation before Tyson Barrie, Bryan Lerg and Colin Smith converted in the skills competition.
Kaleta’s first of the season came on the penalty kill with 9:37 remaining in the opening period to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead. An attempted pass by a Lake Erie defenseman was intercepted in the high slot by Kaleta and the newest Amerk capitalized on the opportunity. Kaleta darted toward the goal-mouth, drew Pickard out of his net with a deke to the forehand move and buried it past the Lake Erie netminder for the go-ahead tally.
Despite a shot advantage for a majority of the game, the Monsters could not solve Hackett until the 6:41 point in the second period when Elliott picked up a loose puck in front of the Rochester net and tied the game 1-1.
With six minutes left in the third period, the Amerks nearly took a 2-1 lead when Jerome Gauthier-Leduc received a pass from Chad Ruhwedel and fired a wrist shot towards the Lake Erie net. While the puck managed to beat Pickard, it rang off the left post and the game remained tied.
Lake Erie’s Karl Stollery nearly scored the game-winning goal with 1:18 remaining in regulation, when his slap-shot from the blueline drilled the inside of the post and re-directed into the corner, preserving the 1-1 tie.
Despite numerous chances by the Amerks offense in overtime, Pickard held strong for the Monsters. Hackett was equal to the task during the extra session, making his best save of the day with 53 seconds left in overtime on an Andrew Agozzino breakaway attempt.
In the shootout session, Phil Varone, Jamie Tardif, and Colin Jacobs were denied by Pickard on the first three attempts by the Amerks. Barrie and Lerg gave the Monsters a 2-0 shootout advantage before Smith sealed the deal with the shootout-clinching goal.
After giving up four power-play goals in their last game Saturday versus the Binghamton Senators, the Rochester penalty kill provided a strong effort against Lake Erie. The Amerks successfully killed all four of Lake Erie’s power-play chances.
The Amerks head north of the border on Wednesday, Nov. 13 to face the North Division rival Hamilton Bulldogs in the third of eight scheduled meetings this season. The special school day game is slated for a 10:00 a.m. start at Copps Coliseum with all the action being carried live on 90.5 WBER.