The Rochester Americans scored three times in the first period and received a pair of goals each from Brayden Irwin and Dan Catenacci as the Amerks snapped a season-long nine-game losing streak with a hard-fought 5-2 win over the visiting Syracuse Crunch Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena. The win was a critical one for the Amerks, who improved to 31-27-6-4 on the season and moved within three points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW BOXSCORE
The multi-goal efforts from Irwin and Catenacci were the first of both players’ respective careers and the victory was also the first for rookie goaltender Andrey Makarov, who made 24 saves in his fourth straight start. Frederick Roy scored the final goal for Rochester, while Joel Armia notched two assists and newcomer Mikhail Grigorenko, assigned to Rochester on Tuesday, earned his first point as an Amerk in his regular season American Hockey League debut for the Amerks. Also adding assists were leading point-getter Phil Varone, who matched his career-high with his 52nd point of the season, and defenseman Nick Petrecki, who also finished with a team-best plus-four on-ice rating.
Cedric Paquette and Dmitry Korobov scored goals for the Crunch, while Kristers Gudlevskis and Cedrick Desjardins combined to make 19 saves between the pipes.
The Amerks quickly asserted themselves against the Crunch and were rewarded just 2:48 into the game on Irwin’s first goal of the night. Varone controlled the puck behind the net, drifted across the goal-line and threw a shot on net with Irwin parked in front. Gudlevskis made the original save, but kicked the rebound right out to Irwin, who slammed it home from the top of the crease to give Rochester the early 1-0 lead.
The first-period success continued on a pretty play between Catenacci and team captain Kevin Porter, as the duo flew into the Syracuse zone on a 2-on-1 before Porter zipped a pass over to Catenacci, who in-turn chipped the puck over Gudlevskis to put the Amerks ahead 2-0.
Just 1:19 later, Irwin forced a turnover in the Syracuse zone and whipped a quick shot on net that surprised Gudlevskis for the forward’s second tally of the night, providing the Amerks with a three-goal advantage heading into the first intermission.
Rochester carried its momentum into the early stages of the second period on Catenacci’s second goal, when the rookie forward zoomed to the net and used a nifty back-hand move to increase the Amerks lead to 4-0 and chase Gudlevskis to the bench.
The Amerks took two penalties late in the middle period, and the second infraction came back to bite them. With just six seconds left in the period, the puck took an unfortunate bounce off of the end-boards behind Rochester’s net right to Paquette, who poked it in past Makarov for Syracuse’s first goal.
Roy added his seventh goal of the season on another 2-on-1 play off a pass from Grigorenko to push the Amerks’ lead to 5-1. The duo of Roy and Grigorenko marked a successful reunion for the pair, who skated together as teammates on the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. The assist was also the first point in an Amerks uniform for Grigorenko, who made his 2013-14 season debut after joining Rochester for two games during last season’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
Korobov notched the Crunch’s second goal with 3:24 remaining in regulation, but that was as close as Syracuse would get.
The Amerks conclude their four-game homestand on Friday, April 4 as they host the Binghamton Senators in one final go-around at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the eighth and final meeting between the two teams this season and will be carried live on Sports 1280 WHTK.