Despite mounting another late-game comeback, the Rochester Americans ultimately could not overcome a two-goal deficit, falling to the North Division rival Toronto Marlies by a 3-2 count Saturday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum. The loss snaps a brief two-game winning streak for the Amerks, who close out the month of November in sole possession of second place in the American Hockey League’s North Division standings.
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Jamie Tardif and Matt MacKenzie provided the Rochester goals, while Matt Hackett stopped 26 of 29 shots in his first game back between the pipes. Matt Ellis, Johan Larsson and Colton Gilles also finished with assists in the loss for the Amerks.
Leading the way offensively for the hometown Marlies were Sam Carrick and John-Michael Liles, who each finished with a goal and an assist. Tyler Biggs rounded out the scoring for Toronto, while former Amerk goaltender Drew MacIntyre earned his league-leading 11th win of the season by stopping 25 of 27 shots he faced, including 14 of 15 in the third period.
Tardif opened the scoring for Rochester 7:16 in when he converted an Ellis rebound from the top of the crease to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead. Ellis’ shot from the left face-off circle was blocked away by MacIntyre, but Tardif was there to put back the second opportunity for his fifth goal of the season. Larsson also earned an assist on the play to push his point streak to three games and now shows seven points (2+5) in six games with the Amerks since being assigned to Rochester on Nov. 19.
Toronto, which maintained most of the momentum in the first period and outshot the Amerks 13-4, knotted the contest late in the frame with a shorthanded marker from Carrick. Kevin Porter’s slap-shot from the center point missed wide of the net and circled back up along the right wing boards and out of the reach of Ellis. Carrick corralled the loose puck outside the Rochester blueline and sped off on a breakaway, beating Hackett with a back-hander under the crossbar to make it a 1-1 game with 1:28 remaining in the period. It was the first shorthanded tally surrendered by the Amerks this season.
Carrick nearly gave the Marlies their first lead of the day with another breakaway opportunity early in the second stanza, but this time Hackett foiled Carrick’s back-hand attempt with a big right leg pad save.
The go-ahead goal did eventually come for the Marlies, though, with Liles taking a cross-ice feed from Carrick on the power-play at 14:19. Former Amerk T.J. Brennan sent a low pass to Carrick, who then moved the puck across the goal-mouth to a wide-open Liles for the tap-in past Hackett.
Toronto widened the gap just 2:16 later when Biggs jumped on a Brad Staubitz rebound for his second goal of the season. After steering aside Staubitz’s initial bid from the blueline, the rebound kicked out to the low slot to a waiting Biggs, who swept the puck into the empty net to give the Marlies a 3-1 cushion heading into the second intermission.
Rochester cut the deficit in half 2:46 into the third period when MacKenzie picked the upper left corner just as a penalty to Toronto’s Andrew Crescenzi was expiring. A loose-puck battle behind the Toronto net went in favor of the Amerks with Gillies emerging from the pack along the right half-wall. Gillies, getting pressured from behind, left it for MacKenzie at the top of the face-off circle and the Amerks defenseman wristed a shot through traffic that found its way past a screened MacIntyre. With the lone assist, Gillies has recorded points in each of his last three games.
With 1:07 remaining, the Amerks pulled Hackett in favor of an extra attacker and generated several quality scoring chances, including their best opportunity to tie the game in the waning seconds of regulation. Ellis almost deflected a point-blank shot from Porter, while Phil Varone and Tardif both had chances of their own during a net-front scramble, but MacIntyre was able to keep everything in front of him as the Marlies held on for the 3-2 win.
The Amerks return home on Wednesday, Dec. 4 as they battle the Utica Comets for the fourth time in as many weeks at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK.