The Rochester Americans used a four-goal second period and connected four times on the power-play en route to a 7-3 win over the visiting Utica Comets Friday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The win is the ninth in 11 games for the Amerks, who are now 24-17-3-3 on the season and improve to 6-2-0-0 over their intrastate rivals from Utica.
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In a high scoring night for the Amerks, veteran forward Jamie Tardif finished with two goals and an assist, while Brayden McNabb, fresh off his appearance at the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic, tallied a goal and two assists and Johan Larsson added three assists. Rasmus Ristolainen also scored twice, Luke Adam had a goal and an assist and rookie defenseman Chad Ruhwedel finished with a pair of assists. Goaltender Nathan Lieuwen earned his 11th win of the season in a 29-save effort.
Brandon DeFazio, Kent Huskins and Frank Corrado scored for the Comets, while Joacim Eriksson and Joe Cannata combined for 16 saves in the losing effort for the Comets, who host the back-end of the home-and-home series Saturday at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Lieuwen had to be at his best the entire opening period, as the Comets put the pressure on early. Just minutes into the game, Utica’s Alex Friesen received a pass in the slot and fired a point-blank shot right into the stomach of Lieuwen.
With Benn Ferriero in the penalty box following a hooking penalty, the Amerks struck with their first goal 9:37 into the game. With Tardif stationed in front of the net, Ruhwedel fired a slap-shot from the point. Tardif managed to get a stick on the puck and deflected it into the net for his first goal of the evening.
The second period saw the Amerks score three times in a span of 3:16 to essentially put the game out of reach. The first goal of the stretch was another power-play tally from Tardif with Ruhwedel picking up his second assist of the night. Phil Varone controlled the puck along the boards and whipped a cross-ice pass over to Ruhwedel at the bottom of the circle. Unable to convert on the initial shot, Ruhwedel passed the puck over to Tardif on the doorstep and he banged home his 15th goal of the year and second of the night.
The Amerks scored their third goal just 1:12 later when Larsson dropped a pass back to Ristolainen at the blueline and the defenseman’s slap-shot went through a screen from former Comet Brayden Irwin and into the net. Just 2:04 after Ristolainen’s goal, Tim Schaller cruised into the Utica zone, received a pass from Frederick Roy and slid a back-hand attempt into the net before barreling over Eriksson.
The Comets nearly solved Lieuwen with their first goal with just over six minutes remaining in the second period, when Ferriero’s shot from the right wing rang off the right post. The rebound sat there for Utica, but the secondary attempt fluttered over the net.
McNabb got into the scoring action with 2:01 remaining in the second period on the power-play, as he jumped into the zone, received a pass from Tardif and buried his sixth goal of the season.
Adam’s team-leading 21st goal of the season came 7:55 into the third period after Larsson utilized a spin-move to elude former Amerk Alex Biega and passed over to a wide open Adam, who tapped the offer past Cannata for Rochester’s sixth goal.
The Comets scored their three goals in the final eight minutes of the game to ruin Lieuwen’s shutout bid, beginning with DeFazio’s seventh of the season at 12:07. Kent Huskins then became the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce after his dump-in caromed off the stanchion and made its way into a vacated net to bring the score to 7-2.
Ristolainen added his second goal on the night on the power-play with 2:03 remaining in regulation and Corrado finished off the scoring when he cleaned up Alex Friesen’s rebound with just 5.7 seconds remaining in regulation.
Rochester and Utica square off for the second straight night on Saturday, Feb. 15 as the home-and-home series shifts east for a North Division showdown at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The 7:00 p.m. contest will be the ninth of 10 between the two teams this season with all will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK.